The Benkovac Fair
Not so long ago, just thirty years or so, fairs were an everyday occurrence in every small, mid-sized or larger village or town in Dalmatia. Although that tradition has largely been lost today, there are still a few fairs left in Croatia, one of which deserves a special mention due to the variety of its offering and the colourful people who visit – the Benkovac fair.
The story of this peculiar fair starts one hundred years ago when the town centre of Benkovac, on the 10th day of every month (during the summer), would become the venue of a large livestock fair. It was a place filled with song, laughter and cheer, where guys and girls would dance traditional dances and flirt with one another, and where thus many a love affair was born.
Soon, Benkovac became the centre of Dalmatia for that one day of the month when tens of thousands of farmers, traders and craftspeople would come here to try to sell everything “from a needle to an anchor”.
Nowadays, the fair is held outside the centre on six hectares of land including rocky fields and pine forests in a village named Benkovačko selo, an area where people have always made a living from agriculture, livestock and traditional crafts. Instead of going to soulless shopping centres, people come from all over to buy and sell in a rather more traditional way. Hundreds of traders in livestock and domestic animals, agricultural tools and household wares, as well as owners of local restaurants in improvised tents and a river of visitors and idlers from all corners of Croatia flow through the fair.
What can you find at the Benkovac Fair? The fair's most popular products each month depend on the season. People from the fertile central Croatian regions of Prigorje, Podravina and Međimurje bring flour from their mills; those from the market towns of Varaždin and Bjelovar bring calves, and from the plains of Slavonia mainly pigs and piglets… The hospitable locals take care of the rich gastronomic offering: lamb roast on a spit, suckling pig, food roasted under the lid, and a variety of wines from the local vineyards.
The wonderful thing about the Benkovac Fair is not just its century-old tradition but the fact that this fair is a part of an almost lost way of life in agricultural regions and is an authentic manifestation of commercial, cultural and ethnological heritage.
The Village Olympics and the Bullfight
About twenty years ago in a small, tumbledown village with few prospects, a number of locals decided to take a radical step and turn their secluded village into an attractive tourist destination that would be renowned far and wide. They wanted to preserve the memory of their predecessors by maintaining their peaceful and quiet lives, as well as their iconic village festivals!
The Benkovac Fair