“Do you know when the festival starts?” Sitting on the porch with a beer in hand, Eric couldn’t believe it: ‘I’ve never seen so little enthusiasm for Vieilles Charrues.’ There is no poster in sight, only vaccination banners adorning some street corner. The weather is like heaven: bleak. Carhaix’s heart does not shake with The rhythm of the festival, which begins on Thursday, and confusion reigns in the city.
“We expect things to move a bit, especially on the weekends, but between health restrictions, duration, and weather, it’s hard to see the enthusiasm; La Réguine bar manager Hugo Le Mignon says at the start of another short rain. Same story with other merchants in Carhaix, happy to find their festival again but don’t know on which foot to dance as per the established standards.
“We don’t really know what to expect. It’s complicated this year, admits Yvan Clech, owner of the La Loco pizzeria, a stone’s throw from the site, which employs seven people for the full term of Vieilles Charrues, versus 14 in a typical year. Usually, during For the festival, we have 150-200 seats at noon, we close around 5pm, and we keep the refreshment bar until about 11pm. There, we’re expecting about forty seats and maybe we’ll leave the restaurants open in the evening. But we’re still waiting, while it starts.”
Others benefit from it. This is particularly the case with Ty Gourmand Bakery, located at the entrance to the festival. “Usually, we close our doors for eight days with Vieilles Charrues because of our location, and that deals a blow to Michel Collobert, the store manager. There we will be open and prepare for the classic days, hoping that our regulars will know that we are open, at a time when we normally are not.”
To achieve this, the location of the Hyère Valley campground is a good indicator. A popular place for festival-goers to pitch their tents, the site is occupied this morning at dozens of sites, mostly for bike tourism, in a place capable of accommodating over five hundred people. We say right away: “Most clients arrive on the same day, it rarely happens,” while an increase in bookings is expected on the first weekend of the festival. But the number of camp site reservations is nearly a quarter compared to the average year.
If the excitement isn’t ok, it’s a relief that the festival is still going on this year. As Eric says on his balcony: “Les Vieilles Charrues is Carhaix. You have to work, otherwise everything stops and we lose part of the city.”
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