The Street Fair in Gràcia are a unique street fairs where the neighborhood residents use recycled materials to transform the streets
The first time we heard about the street fair of Gràcia was from a friend of ours who was visiting the city. She was staying with a friend and they offered to show us around the fair and make a night of it. Since the Fair coincided with the Fair in Málaga and we were missing it, the plan sounded like a good one. Apart from that little introduction as a neighborhood street fair, I had no idea what to expect when we followed the crowds to the small side streets of Gràcia.
The first street we came upon was decorated with brightly colored bees and all things having to do with honey, bee keepers and bee facts. There were streamers hung across the street between the buildings. The bars had opened their doors and were selling beer and different drinks in plastic cups to take out into the street. At first we were confused, thinking that the whole fair was bee themed, but then we saw a map of the streets and realized that there were other areas that had been decorated. We found out that 18 different streets in the neighborhood got together and decorated their street with a certain theme for a prize. Each year the groups got together and decorated with recycled materials using lots of creativity.
We wandered down the bee street and continued looking for other streets that had been decorated with a theme. We found one that had been decorated with a musical theme and had a huge boom box as the stage, there was another with strips of cloth draped across as if it were a ball room and they had made chandeliers out of the little capsules that some coffee machines use. Someone had saved up a lot of capsules, flattened them into little circles and then strung them together around a lightbulb to make a recycled chandelier.
Gràcia, we learned, used to be an independent community separate from Barcelona, in other words, it was a little town. The Paseo de Gràcia, which leads from the center of town towards this neighborhood was actually the “highway” used to get from Barcelona to Gràcia in the past. The area became part of Barcelona in the year 1897 and is now one of the most densely populated areas of the city. While the neighborhood is mainly famous for being home to ParkGüell of Gaudí fame, the street fair (Las Festas de Gràcia), which always take place in mid-August, are now gaining fame and popularity in all of Catalonia.
We thanked the owner of Puku Café for his help and were glad to have found out the inside scoop about the festival and the neighborhood. With that we headed back out to enjoy the festival and explore the decorated streets. The winner from the previous year (2011) was Carrer Verdi. This street is filled with neat little shops and bars, as well as an independent movie theater and in 2012 it had chosen as its theme the Wild West. We approached the decorated portion of the street which had a sign for the “Saloon” and lots of people streaming inside. The walls were hung with “wanted” posters and there were even a few toy pistols. The main decoration was in the back with huge sets of legs meant to be can can dancers throwing their skirts up.
Also in the back portion of the street turned tented fairgrounds was a man who was lighting a large bowl of some kind of alcohol. It was called “queimada” in Galicia or “Ron Cremat” in Catalonia.It is drink with lemon, brandy and sugar lit on fire and then served with little coffee grounds. It was a spectacle to see them make it, and the sweet drink was deliciously intoxicating on that summer night. As we left the area, there was a huge cactus made entirely from soda cans, a huge Indian sculpture, a mountain made from newspaper balls painted pink, and even a tee pee. This was what you call dedication to the creative project. Needless to say, Carrer Verdi won the prize again this year.
Other highlights of the street fair included a street that had decorated everything with Rubik´s cubes, another that had a Star Wars theme and had made the different characters from the movie. One of my favorite streets had dedicated this year to fashion and had created dresses made entirely from recycled materials. There was one made (again) from the little coffee capsules that was gorgeous! The last street we wandered down had the theme of sewing and there were enormous measuring tapes hung above our heads. The best part, however, was a huge sewing box with a needle, thread, and sewing scissors that you could take out of the box and pretend to “sew.” All in all, it made for a fantastic time.
The festival lasts for about a week and we went back another night to have dinner and hear some traditional Catalonian folk music. The “Folk” plaza was packed with people who had come out on the hot August evening to listen to the traditional group with a modern rock twist. We had such fun listening to the music and getting wrapped up in the atmosphere which reminded us both of Malasaña in Madrid or Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I should mention that in other plazas there were different types of music, DJs and even stand up comedians who were performing for charity.
If you happen to be in Barcelona during the Gràcia street fair in August, we ruskommend it with a Golden Boqueron. This was one of my favorite experiences in the month we spent in Barcelona. A summer fair is always fun, and this one is especially creative and fun. The already hip streets are totally transformed, and there is the added edge of friendly competition that leaves you wondering who will take the prize for best decorated street. I only wish we did this in my neighborhood so I could join in the fun of transforming and decorating my own street for the fair!