The village Fete is a key part of village life all over France.
It involves all the inhabitants getting together around some local event or monument and eating, drinking and dancing until late into the night. They can reminisce about how the fête used to be and complain about how the drink-driving laws are now so strict that they can actually remember getting home in the morning.
There are some unofficial rules to be followed even if the organisers are unaware.
- Firstly, there must be a negligible presence on social media. The organising committee will probably have an average age of 70+ so a press release to the local paper will be the latest great PR stunt.
- Secondly, there must be much local produce – in Charente Maritime this will include Pineau, Moules and Oysters. All eating of said produce is to be done on wooden trestle tables.
- Thirdly, there must be a cover band. This will preferably be an ageing French rocker, given Johnny Halliday’s unfortunate recent passing, expect to see many covers of varying quality doing the rounds this year.
- Lastly, once the fete has been set up and is running smoothly, it must never, ever change. The younger fetes are 20 years old, when they get to 40 they’re well established. By the time they reach 100 years then a telegram from the Queen would be in the post, if they had one – a queen that is, not a postal service.
So with that in mind, here are two Charentais village fetes that follow most if not all of the rules above. They are set up and run by small committees that do it for the love of the village and for a great few days. When you go be sure to seek them out and say thanks!
Pineau is the local aperitif and the local producers let you taste the fruits of their labour from wooden stalls that are put up for the occasion.
It spreads over 3 days and each evening there is a barbeque and you eat out under the stars on the aforementioned wooden tables.
Last year was the 40th anniversary and they really pushed the boat out with covers of Celine Dion AND Johnny Halliday that rounded off the evenings.
It is held this year from 10-12 August.
Champagnolles has the only grass Velodrome in Europe and the first Saturday of July they invite championship racers and clubs from all over France to race around it.
This year is the 96th edition so it’s been going for a while.
After the races there’s a massive roast suckling pig and drinking into the night.