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  • Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the Thrush)

    By Anthony Parente

    During the last weekend in October the town of Montalcino in the province of Siena, Tuscany hosts the Sagra del Tordo (Festival of the Thrush). This is the biggest and most important event for the town and one that the entire townspeople are involved in. The festival originated in the Middle Ages celebrating the hunting season. The area is a hot spot in October for the flow of migratory birds, specifically the thrush. Hunters and falconers would scour the countryside and return with a bounty of prey. Grandiose feasts and banquets would take place and the men would compete against each other in jousting competitions and the women would show off their culinary expertise. This was a time where all the social classes came together and celebrated as one.

    In 1958 the town revived this old tradition in hopes of boosting the economy. The festival is a two-day event filled with music, dancing, entertaining and of course great food, and wine all leading up to the archery contest. The group Il Trescone will perform traditional folk dances dressed in costumes. They will dance and sing as the accordions play looking for participants to join them. On Saturday, a procession takes place starting at the Piazza Cavour moving through the decorated four districts/quarters (Borghetto, Pianello, Ruga, Travaglio) towards the Piazza del Popolo accompanied by drummers and trumpeters. There they will have the drawing of the two archers for each district. The procession will reconvene in the afternoon as they make their way to the shooting range where there will be an exhibition by the archers.

    On Sunday there is the big historical parade that starts at the Piazza Cavour and makes its way to the fortress for the opening ceremonies. This features the Lord and Lady of the fortress, ladies in waiting, knights and hunters wearing costumes from the fourteenth and fifteenth century. They will move to the Churchyard of Sant 'Egidio for the blessing of the archers. Finally, the procession departs for the shooting range. Each of the four districts will have booths for you to purchase products from the area and taste the local cuisine.

    The main event of the festival is the archery contest. The Borghetto (white and red), Pianello (blue and white), Ruga (blue and yellow) and Travaglio (yellow and red) districts have two archers each to defend their district. One archer from each district will compete at the same time. They will each get five arrows and the goal is to hit their target, which is in the shape of a wild boar. Once each archer finishes their five arrows the judges will hold up a number signifying how many arrows hit the target. Then the second group of archers will take their turn shooting five arrows at the same target. The judges will once again hold up a number, which represents the total arrows for that round that hit the target. There are four rounds in total. Each round the distance and score increases. At the end, the point totals will be tallied and the district with the most points win the coveted silver arrow and bragging rights for the year.

    For a list of all the events, times, locations and additional information visit the official Sagra del Tordo site.

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