In August 2018, I participated in the annual Basket Festival (Fête de la Vannerie) in Vallabrègues, France.
Vallabrègues once had a large population of basket weavers. Although only one remains today, the Basket Festival has been held for the past 30 years, attracting weavers from all over France and several other countries as well. The two-day weekend festival, truly a unique experience, opens with a Friday night banquet for the weavers and the entire village. It provides an extraordinary opportunity to meet weavers from all over Europe, admire their handiwork, learn new techniques, sell baskets or exchange them with other weavers or just relax and practice my French.
My colleague Raya Reich has had a stand at the festival for the past 20 years. I joined her, using a small corner of her booth as a sales outlet.
Our Israeli booth
Europe has a long tradition of willow basket weaving. The Israeli booth is different and unique because it offers an extensive variety of date stem products whose structures and textures are very different from those of willow items.
Date palms are not common in Europe. People are familiar with its fruit, but require some explanation of the origin and nature of the palm branches we use for weaving.
Festival stands selling willow items
In keeping with their tradition, villagers hold a procession during the festival, featuring crafts and villagers as they appeared 70 years ago. Several orchestras accompany the procession with music and also play during the Festival to the delight of visitors.
A wagonful of baskets in the procession
For further information, you are invited to watch a French-language video that tells the story of Vallabrègues and its Basket Festival.
I sail through the stormiest seas
While grasping the soil, grass and trees.
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