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ST JOHN FESTIVITIES (SAO JOAO) 2020

WHAT: ST JOHN FESTIVITIES (SAO JOAO)
WHERE: PORTO, PORTUGAL
WHEN: 23RD TO 24TH JUNE 2020
COST: FREE TO ATTEND

The official date if the celebration is on the evening of the 23rd June carrying onto the 24th June, but if you are in Porto up to 5 weeks before the festival you will feel the festivity in the air. The festival if St John or Sao Joao in Portuguese is Porto’s largest saint festival and one of the biggest celebrations to be held in Europe. Held in the city of Porto, Portugal it is the most anticipated celebration in the calendar combining sacred and profane traditions along with food, culture, fireworks and much more.

The history of the event dates to the 14th century when it was originally a pagan festival that celebrated the sun god and celebrates abundant crops. Back when it was a pagan festival the celebration had various traditions one of these was to hang leeks on the outside of houses as this was thought to bring good luck, in the recent celebrations you will notice people walking around with a leek flower and touching people’s faces. Other herbs play a part in the rituals as they were used in pagan courtship rituals along with bringing health, good luck and fortune.  Some of the more confident Later the Catholic church decided to Christianise it and the celebration became an honour of St John the Baptist, but the rituals were the same along with some new additions of the plastic hammer. Now one of the quirkier traditions that characterizes the St John festival, the plastic hammers are sold all over the city by street vendors and are used for hitting passers-by lightly on the head of everyone you meet along the way.

The highlight of the festival is the night of the 23rd June, the streets are lined with St john’s balloons made of bright coloured paper with larger balloons released painting the skies with hundreds of lights. The buzz of joy from the crowds and the live music along with the entertainment all add to the party atmosphere. Smoke from the many BBQ’s linger in the air as friends and families gather together to enjoy the traditional fayre of grilled sardines, Caldo Verde (a shredded green cabbage soup), chicken and Bifana’s (pork sandwiches) washed down with a glass of good port wine of course. Please note that due to the number of visitors to the festival along with the massive party atmosphere this festival is not one for the faint-hearted.

After enjoying a hearty meal, and a drink or two, the crowds make their way down to the D. Luis Bridge and the banks of the Douro River for the highlight of the festivities. At around midnight the dark skies are lit up in a kaleidoscope of colour and effects as the fireworks begin on the river. Thousands watch in awe as the bright colours burst drawing shapes in the air, this lasts for around 15 minutes in total.

After the fireworks, some revellers head off home, but many make their way on the D. Luiz Bridge to the nearest beach to sit and watch the sunrise. However, with plenty of distractions along the way such as improvised balls where you will be dragged to dance and food corners where you can stop to refuel on food and drink if you so wish this may be easier said than done.

The following day and one of the quieter days of the festival the Regatta of Rabelo Boats in the Douro river takes place. These beautiful boats are from days gone by when they were used to transport Port wine.

This is a festival that you should put on your bucket list and see both the traditional and quirky sides of the Portuguese festival of St John.

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PLYMOUTH BRITISH FIREWORK CHAMPIONSHIPS 2020

WHAT: BRITISH FIREWORKS CHAMPIONSHIPS 2020
WHY: NATIONAL FIREWORK CHAMPIONSHIPS
WHEN: 12TH – 13TH August 2020
WHERE: MOUNTBATTEN BREAKWATER, PLYMOUTH SOUND, PLYMOUTH HOE
COST: FREE

One of the most important competitions in the UK Professional Firework calendar will once again thrill young and old alike over the beautiful settings of Plymouth Sound this Summer.

The list of pyrotechnic competitors for this year’s British Fireworks Championships are as follows:

THE FIREWORKERS – DRIFFIELD

SKYBURST THE FIREWORK COMPANY – BRISTOL

PHOENIX FIREWORKS – SEVENOAKS

BRIGHT SPARKS – NORTH WALES

AURORA FIREWORKS – BILLINGSHURST

A J PYROTECHNICS – FOLKESTON

We will bring more details of the firing order and subsequent information once it is available.

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INDEPENDENCE DAY FIREWORKS SET TO RETURN TO MOUNT RUSHMORE

Back in 2009, due to ongoing forest fire concerns in the area, the annual firework display over Mount Rushmore was cancelled but President Trump and the Governor of Dakota, Kristi Noem have publicly stated that they want the display to return to the area.

The reason for the original cancellation of the display was due to the impact of a pine beetle infestation of the forest surrounding the Black Hills, which had devastated the wooded areas, leaving behind a dry shell as the beetles killed off trees one after another. The remaining timber was ultimately like tinder and one small spark and another uncontrolled fire would be underway. Bug killed trees have been thinned out to try to stop the spread of fire and over the last 10 years, the region has recovered to a greater degree.

Expecting to gain the go-ahead to hold a 15 to 30-minute display on July 3rd, which historically was the date of the display in the past, enabling visitors to attend other events on 4th July in the region. The events in the past included picnics, live music, and re-enactments of events that took place back in 1776 for the entertainment of the thousands expected to attend.

Before the display is given the go-ahead, a full environmental analysis is to take place and there have been complaints about the burn marks on a couple of the heads of previous presidents but realistically, this is still likely to be the firing site.

Mount Rushmore at Night

Sadly, the native American people in the region; Lakota Sioux, are once again being ignored. Back in 1868, the area surrounding Mount Rushmore was given ‘in perpetuity’ to the native American people BUT of course, that promise was only kept until the 1870s when gold was found on the site and the local tribesmen once again lost their land. The Black Hills are a sacred site containing the burial grounds of ancestors over centuries so quite understandably, they are reticent to permit the event to go ahead but only time will tell. The Chairman of the Yankton Sioux Tribe; Robert Flying Hawk, has lodged a complaint, objecting strongly to the re-introduction of the fireworks at Mount Rushmore citing that the event is sacrilegious and violates his tribe’s spiritual beliefs.

Fireworks

The first of several consultancy meetings took place on 10th March 2020 and in addition to the concerns of the native Americans, locals are really worried about the impact on the water supply and of course who is going to pay for the event? Who will cover the cost of temporary toilets, policing and stewarding in addition to having tens of thousands of spectators to the area?

When a ‘suggestion’ is supported by President Trump, who back in January confirmed that the environment was in a better position now to support the celebrations for Independence Day, it is highly probable that it will go ahead but we will keep you updated.

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