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“Let me heartily congratulate all of you on the opening of the Yalta’99 International Folk Festival, this cheerful and sparkling feast of folk art!The Festival that has brought together participants from all the continents gives one an excellent possibility to get acquainted with the best samples of Ukrainian and world’s cultural heritage, to strengthen cultural ties among the nations of the world”.

From President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma's  address
to the participants of the Yalta Folk Festival.

The town of Yalta, a marvelous place at the southern Crimean coast, saw its first international folk festival. For several days, August 18-22, 20 professional and amateur troupes from 19 countries of the world (582 performers altogether!) performed on the stages on the seafront promenade to which thousands upon thousands of holidaymakers flocked from all over town every evening. The posters promised a lot of free entertainment and what was shown exceeded all expectations. Even the organizers, the Tavriyski Ihry Association, admitted that they did not quite expect the Festival to be such an unqualified success. It was evident that the performers enjoyed performing as much as the spectators enjoyed watching their performance.The venue of the official opening ceremony was the Yubileyny Culture Centre. 85_4.jpg (127273 bytes)
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Mrs Kuchma, the wife of President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma, greeted the participants and guests of the Festival on her own behalf and on behalf of her husband. Each troupe then performed one colourful dance. In fact, most of the troupes were made of dancers rather than singers and all the dancers were a great hit with the audiences. On the opening night, as the carnival procession moved all along the seafront promenade from the central square to the concert hall, the crowds cheered, shook hands, asked for autographs and took pictures. It was a truly joyful occasion and a most delightful sight, with all the participants of the carnival procession wearing their national attire. The African performers from Togo were in the centre of attention and excited a great admiration by their dances and outfits.The Festival program was rather extensive and included, in addition to actual performances, all kinds of shows, a fair, sightseeing tours and even a mock knights’ tournament at the local stadium. The Irish, Israeli, Georgian performers received many rounds of thunderous applause from the enthusiastic audiences. In fact, all the performances were received very warmly. And the admission to all of them was free of charge. The enthusiasm of the audiences grew from day to day and reached its peak on the third day when the throngs were so thick that movement through them turned out to be a vigorous exercise. The atmosphere was very friendly, and the Israeli performers who had brought along two security guards, said later that there was no need for any guards. “People were so warm, friendly, wildly enthusiastic.

It was great,” said one of the Festival participants and this opinion was shared by all. The “knights’ tournament” was made up of several events: jousting, mock fights, hitting a spinning dummy with a spear at full gallop, picking up a handkerchief from the ground leaning down from the saddle at full speed, picking up a ring from the ground by the spear, also at full speed. The Polish “knights” came out best and were awarded with cold steel weapons; the Ukrainian Cossacks emerged second best, followed by the Swedes and the Russians.It was an excellent idea to have the Festival held in Yalta, which is not only a resort town of wide fame that attracts vacationers from all over Ukraine, Russia and other countries, but also an excitingly scenic place with a holiday, relaxing atmosphere. All of it enhanced the festival mood and added to the excitement.The organizers are hopeful that now, after the success of the first festival it will become a regular event.The Festival climaxed on the closing night with shows, dances on all the stages, and gorgeous fireworks. The participants were taken in pleasure boats and yachts for short rides into the sea. They say that if you want to come back to the place you’ve enjoyed visiting you should throw a coin into a fountain, pond, river or sea. There was a hail of coins from all the boats and yachts.

By Serhiy Hutiyev
Photos by S. Hutiyev and L. Naydyuk

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