It’s about 1:00am on Tuesday as I type these words. My photographer friend Steve Johnson kindly offered to let me republish some of his fabulous photos from last year’s DC Feria de Sevilla. As expected, it was really hard for me to narrow them down to about 10 (actually 12) in my attempt to give you an idea what it’s like to go to this highly-anticipated annual event.
In case you’ve never been, you’re in luck. This year’s DC Feria de Sevilla is coming up very soon on Sunday June 2, 2013. It’s from noon until 6:00pm and takes place at Strathmore at 5301 Tuckerman Lane in North Bethesda, Maryland. There’s a very convenient parking garage across the street with a pedestrian bridge leading directly to the site. There’s also the Grosvenor/Strathmore metro stop. Best of all: admission is FREE!
So what’s this DC Feria about? Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t even come close in comparison with the real Feria in Sevilla in Spain. But it’s still a very large event attended by hundreds perhaps even a thousand every year. It’s more like a celebration of Spanish culture with:
1. Flamenco performances by local dance companies all afternoon,
2. Non-stop Sevillanas dance parties in tents called casetas,
3. Vendors selling samples of authentic dishes from each region of Spain,
4. Vendors flamenco shoes, dresses, castanets, fans, CD’s, DVD’s and more!
The organization that puts on the DC Feria every year is Centro Español de Washington DC.
I imagine that most people spend most of the time watching the flamenco shows on the main stage. That’s all good and well, but I suggest you take some time to check out what’s going on in the tents or casetas. Most of the time you’ll see couples of all ages from children on up dancing Sevillanas dressed in traditional Feria outfits or street clothes. Some of the dancers will be playing castanets. Occasionally they’ll mix it up with some other dances such as fandangos de Huelva, tanguillos de Cádiz or even a rumba. The audience is encouraged to clap along and shout “Olé!”
Some go all out in traditional Feria de Sevilla attire like Miles Hamby seen here dancing Sevillanas with a friend. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
Flamenco guitarist Paco de Málaga playing at what continues to be year after year the most popular caseta at the DC Feria. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
Students of Ana Martínez dancing Sevillanas. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
I also suggest that you arrive early to check out what the food vendors are preparing so you’ll know which ones to hit first before the lines get long later in the day, and trust me, they will. You’ll definitely see dishes such as paella, tortilla española, jamón Serrano, Manchego cheese, cold Gazpacho soup and more. You can even get some sangría to go with that. But you’ll have to stand in one line to buy food tickets and stand in yet another line to use those tickets to buy food. There might be an ATM nearby, but definitely bring cash to make life easier.
Paella expertly prepared by a Taberna del Alaberdero chef. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
This is just one of many oversized pans of the most popular dish served at the DC Feria: paella! June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
The lines are usually long, but the wait for a plate of fresh and hot paella is worth it. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
Around noon, there’s the traditional sing-along of the “Salve Rociera” and a few words by the president of Centro Español, the presentation of the Feria’s official reina and her damas then the Feria officially begins.
Each hour there will be a flamenco performance by a local dance company which takes place at the outdoor amphitheater. Most people stake out a space on the lawn early in the day and stay, so if you want a good view, I suggest you get there early. Bring a blanket to sit on and dress appropriately for the weather. Each year is different, but we’ve had everything from sunny days, cloudy-threatening-to-rain days, rainy days, extremely hot and cold windy days. But no matter what the weather, we manage to carry on!
[Editor’s note: it so happened that my photographer friend Steve only had pics of Flamenco Aparicio of few which you see below. Other companies that performed and that will be performing at the DC Feria this year include Carmen de Vicente’s Requiebros, Natalia Monteleón’s Arte Flamenco, the Ana Martínez Flamenco Dance Company and Furia Flamenca. I know we all have our favorites, but do support all the groups. They’ve been working hard preparing for the Feria.]
12:15pm Opening ceremony. “Salve Rociera”
1:00pm “Requiebros” Carmen de Vicente
2:00pm “Flamenco Aparicio” Aparicio Dance Company
3:00pm “Arte Flamenco” Natalia Monteleone
4:00pm “Ana Martínez and Paco de Málaga”
5:00pm “Furia Flamenca” Estela y Torcuato
Dancers of Flamenco Aparicio, one of several invited companies performing at the DC Feria: Edwin Aparicio, Anna Menéndez, Dana and Yolit. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
Flamenco Aparicio. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
View from the stage. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
View from the audience. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
View of the stage from the top of the hill. TIP: get there early to stake out your seat on the lawn. June 2012 (photo by Steve Johnson)
I hope this blog entry gives first-timers an idea of what to expect. Anyway, to sum things up, here’s a list of tips for the DC Feria (which I originally published in my blog in 2001!):
1. Get there early. The first group goes on at about 1:00pm. Every group works hard to put on a good show and deserves to have a good size audience—the children and other student performers need your moral support. There are groups performing every hour or so.
2. Another reason to get there early is to preview the food kiosks. Decide which ones you want to visit so that later in the day when the lines get long—and they will—you’ll know what you’re waiting for. Don’t forget, you have to stand in line to buy food tickets and then stand in another line to use those tickets to get food.
3. If you’re into photography or videos, take your camera or camcorder. There are lots of colorful costumes and personalities that you’ll want to capture on film.
4. Make the rounds. There is lots to see. Don’t just “plant” yourself at your favorite caseta. Each one has something special to offer.
5. Finally this last tip applies especially to the performers. During the rest of the year, many of us are in competition with each other. It can be a good thing—it challenges us to be our best. But on this special day, don’t lose sight of what the Feria is all about: it’s NOT to celebrate ourselves but rather to celebrate the beauty and richness of Spanish culture.
Once again, the DC Feria is on Sunday June 2, 2013 at Strathmore from noon until 6:00pm. Download the official flyer. If you’re on Facebook, you’ll want to visit my DC Feria event page where I’ll post photos, links of interest as well as any last-minute announcements. I’ll also be posting announcements about the DC Feria on Twitter. See you there!