The August Fair
Dating back to 1250, a privilege granted by Jaume I
The Xàtiva Fair, or Fira d’Agost, was first celebrated in 1250 by special decree of King Jaume I. For several days, the city is transformed into the local party capital, its streets awash with revellers from near and far. The opening and closing ceremonies are truly memorable events and the nights are packed with entertainment.
The Fair takes place between the 15th and 20th of August. For five days, the streets and squares of Xàtiva play host to fair attractions, markets and cultural events. The original focus of the Fair, the cattle market, now takes second place. Highlights among the countless activities on the programme include a draught horse competition known as the tiro y arrastre, which was introduced in the 1970s, a night on which traditional albaes are sung, a classic motorcycle race around the city, a series of children’s shows, and the revived song festival, the Festival de la Cançó.
The old Cattle Market
The mediaeval origins of the Fair are rooted in the cattle market which, despite its declining commercial importance, the city has wisely preserved to the present day. Crowds of farmers throng to the city every August, and attract the fascinated interest of thousands of visitors.
One of the most typical events of the market is the tiro y arrastre competition. This local Valencian sport consists of a race between horses pulling carts loaded with sandbags. Farmers initially began to hold the race in the 1940s, and this now traditional event recalls times past when draught animals formed an essential part of agriculture.
The Fair offers cultural activities for all tastes, transforming the city into a magnet for visitors day and night. However, one of the most long-standing events is unquestionably the night of the albaes, traditional Valencian songs, which takes place the night of the 15th August, when the Fair has just begun, and is repeated on the night of the 20th.
Leaving the hustle and bustle of the Fair behind, the local singers take their positions in the Plaça de Sant Pere and launch a remarkable improvised singing tournament, shattering the silence of the streets and squares along their route. With unceasing wit, humour and irony, the singers critique current affairs in the city and challenge one another. The unrestricted right of reply means that the night may go on until dawn. The event is a pure expression of the spontaneity of local culture, embodied in a collective ritual to voice difficulties, and represents a veritable anthropological treasure.
The Motorcycle Fair
Every 15th of August, Xàtiva hosts one of the most exciting motorcycle races of the year. Fans from far and wide fill the streets to watch the competition, the oldest in Spain and one of the few which still take place on an urban circuit. This is a truly classic motorcycling event to enjoy at close quarters.
The race is meticulously organised by the Moto Ruta Xàtiva club, and has been held without interruption since 1951. There are currently four categories: classics, 80 GP, 80 series and supermoto.
The city on stage
Music and theatre undoubtedly comprise the highlights of the countless cultural events on offer. Every day, every evening and every night of the Fair packs a wealth of entertainment catering for all tastes. The Cançó song festival, suspended for years, has recently been revived. Held more than twenty times, it represents a commitment to local music and Mediterranean culture, with a seal of quality.
The festival forms part of a host of musical events featuring some of the most popular musicians of the day, filling the streets of Xàtiva with music throughout the duration of the Fair. Theatre is another cornerstone of the Fair. Children in particular are especially well catered for and should not miss the shows performed every afternoon in the Plaça del Mercat.
The atmosphere of a mediaeval market
It is a summer tradition to gather in Xàtiva for the mediaeval market. Strolling through the bustling atmosphere of hundreds of traditional stalls, some run by the same family for generations, is an unforgettable experience. Will it be hot? Yes. But visitors will find a varied repertoire of aperitifs and refreshments to cool them down, ranging from home-made aigua-llimo (lemonade) to the most innovative inventions.
The mediaeval market attracts more and more people every year, and offers a wide range of goods for sale. Historically a showcase for craftwork, it is a well-established custom to travel to Xàtiva to sell sturdy sticks. Today, craftwork remains on abundant display, including woodwork, pottery, fans and hardware. Wild food is another delight for the senses, and it is enthralling to see the fresh prickly pear stall, whose owner represents the third generation to serve them in a way unique to the Fair.