As well as winter sunshine and cloudless, blue skies this February brings the 85th ‘Fete du Citron’ to Menton. This year, the famous festival runs from the 17th February to the 4th March, celebrating the town’s historic, fruitful production of lemons, but where did it all begin?
The First Lemon of Menton
Some locals will say that Menton’s owes its reputation as Europe’s number one lemon-growing region to Adam and Eve’s eviction from the Garden of Eden. The story goes that Eve took a perfect lemon from the Garden of Eden, only for Adam to discover what she had done and demand that she get rid of it. Eve choose to plant the lemon in Garavan, leaving Menton to grow from a tiny pip into the beautiful town it is today.
In the late 19th Century, a group of hotel owners devised a plan for a carnival and parade to entice tourists to Menton during the winter months. After being successfully pitched to the municipality, Menton’s first festival, which attracted both locals and tourists to the town in the winter of 1896.
Historically, Menton has remained a major citrus producer in Europe and in 1928, Menton was the number one lemon-growing region in the continent. One innovative hotelier suggested marking the festival with an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruit in the Hotel Riviera. This idea was so popular that, in 1929, the celebrations spilled into the streets of the beautiful, French town. After years of further expansion, Menton’s ‘Fete du Citron’ made its debut in 1935.
Today, the festival attracts upwards of 230,000 visitors each year, all in attendance to marvel at the show-stopping sculptures, floats and parades. Around 150 tons of oranges and lemons are required to create the colourful, citrus creations, with some standing at over 30 feet tall once finished.
Visiting the ‘Fete au Citron’
If you are staying on the French Riviera between 17th February and the 4th March, it is definitely worth paying a visit to Menton. The ‘Fete au Citron’ brings bright, summer colours to winter on the Cote d’Azur, with dancers, entertainers, bands and of course the huge, citrus floats and sculptures – each so full of bright oranges and yellows. The creations are really something else, don’t expect to just see a handful, every attendee can expect to be blown away by around a dozen beautiful, citrus art pieces.
All of the exhibits embody the theme of the festival, which changes every year. In February 2018, the theme is Bollywood, so expect structures to be bigger and bolder than ever before. Celebrate all things bright and citrus in Menton this year and let the festival be part of a truly unforgettable visit to the French Riviera.
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