The Feria del Caballo: Why Jerez’s Spring Fair is a Must See

3 May 2016 0 Comments Category: blog, Cat Gaa, Living in Spain

In many ways, Jerez de la Frontera – a city in the Cádiz province that boasts sherry production, horse breeding and flamenco – is a smaller version of Seville. Staunchly Andalusian with an ability to stay true to its roots, it quickly became one of my favorite cities in Spain. It seems to exude shabby chic, from run down buildings and old flamenco tablaos in the city center to state-of-the-art distilleries and horse training facilities, Jerez merits a day of exploration.

And it all comes to a head at its annual fiesta, the Feria del Caballo, just two weeks after the Andalusian capital’s Real de la Feria begins to shut down. For the first time in its long history, this year’s festival will be held from Saturday to Saturday, with the official kick off happening on Saturday, April 29th at 10 p.m.

Where Seville’s annual fair is grandiose, Jerez’s feels more accessible, more about horses than people. More about cameraderie than a game of who-you-know. More about local tradition that’s open to interpretation and innovation.

And it’s crazy fun.

A Brief History

Most Andalusian fairs began simply enough: as a cattle and feed fair where local businessmen set up small tents to provide food and drink to buyers and sellers. Jerez’s fair has reputedly been around since the medieval ages, and though many fairs have long since removed the livestock element, this week is an important one for farmers, as they can trade without government overhead.

Feria del Caballo: What to Do

Like the Feria de Abril, the Feria del Caballo is all about Andalusian food, drink and dance. But what takes center stage in this fête are purebred Andalusian horses, and numerous events around the city are dedicated to the art of domesticating the beautiful animals.

During the week, numerous competitions and exhibitions take place – think, riding and jumping contests, carriage parades and special merchandising fairs. And at the fairgrounds, locals pass by in horse carriages or on horseback, though there’s no fear of getting trampled!

When it comes to a traditional Andalusian fairs, I am a purist – I abhor music that isn’t traditional, don a traje de gitana that cost me the equivalent of a plane fare and eat only Spanish food. In Jerez, temporary structures called casetas are owned by local bars and businesses. The IKEA tent serves Swedish meatballs, there’s a Mexican food churning out margaritas and even a biker bar that boasts heavy metal and oversized mixed drinks in plastic cups. It feels a bit more county fair than Seville’s big do, and that’s precisely what sets it apart.

You can also find carnival rides and food stalls at the Calle del Infierno, bullfights take place daily and

Not into the festivities?

Jerez offers a great day trip from Seville or Cádiz for more than just its most raucous fair. The center is chock full of grubby taverns and traditional tabancos, and the crumbling cathedral and narrow, whitewashed roads are quintssential to the region’s largest city.

The National Equestrian Art School of Spain has its home in Jerez, and their shows are magical, showcasing the agility of the Andalusian steed. The grounds, owned by former mayor and sherry exporter Álvaro Domecq (oh, and his family also raises bulls), houses a museum, too.

Recognize the famous sherry bottle sporting a short, red jacket and flat-brimmed hat? That landmark advertising comes from Bodegas González-Byass, one of the most recognizable brands in Spain. You can take a tour of the vineyards, complete with tasting, daily. Here’s a list of the best bodegas in Jerez.

Getting to Jerez

Jerez is 90 kilometers southwest of Seville and reachable by train, car or bus from various points of Andalucía. There’s also a small airport with flights to mainland Spain, Germany and the UK.

Feria del Caballo 101

The Feria del Caballo will be on from April 30th through May 7th. The fairgrounds, located in Parque González Hontoria in the north end of town, are open from 12 noon daily. Casetas are open to the public – no ifs, ands or rebujitos about it.

You can find more information in Spanish on Jerez’s Tourism website.

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