Perhaps the most interesting part of our chat with DOCA coordinator, Loz, and definitely, the most controversial was the carnival’s date change. Still social media comments groan that Confetti Battle was traditionally on a Wednesday. Yet, bringing it to a Saturday makes it feasible for higher attendance, particularly tourists and day trippers.
Loz expressed it could be as renowned as the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Roll, and intends to diversify and extend the concept to interest a wider audience. In Devizes we take it for granted people annually gather in the Market Place to fling confetti at each other, without contemplating how bizarre this notion is to outsiders. Bizarre attracts adventurous visitors, hunting for something different; they’d come, they’d spend money, but less likely on a Wednesday evening.
This morning I read a blog about The Rainforest World Music Festival, three days partying in the rainforest near Kuching, Sarawak in Malaysia. Okay, the English was poorly translated, but the photos wowed. Given I’ve jested the word “festival” these-days seems to be a new-fangled soundbite whereby anyone can pop up a gazebo, hire a man with a guitar, sell some tinnies and allow gatherers to piss on his rhododendrons, and dub it a festival, it got me thinking exactly what constitutes a festival, internationally, how bizarre do some get, and how does our Confetti Battle compare?
Investigation exposed some pretty outlandish and curious events, and some complete bonkers. Many you’d need to pack a suitcase for a lengthy flight for, others it seems are not so far away. The Coopers Hill Cheese Roll in Gloucestershire cropped up more times than injuries undoubtedly caused there, but nowhere have I discovered mention of Pewsey’s locally eminent Wheelbeerow Race, or Devizes and the weird custom of lobbing confetti at each other. Think outside the box, or Brittox, it is a tad weird, guys; but both on weeknights.
Do they compare in weirdness to a moose dropping festival? Talkeetna, Alaska, it’s not snow falling from the sky, but moose poo, painted white and dropped from a helicopter! Or the International Hair-Freezing Contest in Yukon, Canada, where, as the name hints, using only water and the frosty air, contestants freeze their Barnett Fair into the most peculiar and eccentric shapes?
While some are just ascetically bizarre, like the Burning Man in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, or Florida’s Underwater Music Festival, it’s the theme of many which alarms or amuses; Roswell obviously has a UFO Festival. Devon’s Blackawton International Festival of Worm Charming, is a thing. The World Bog-Snorkelling Championships in Llanwrtyd Wells and Ashbourne’s toedium smack down, the World Toe Wrestling Championships are too.
Wife Carrying Championship, anyone? The wedding vow of husbands metaphorically carrying spouses in times of sickness is taken a smidgen too literally in Sonkajärvi, Finland. Awards for the swiftest, toughest and amusingly costumed pairs are handed to contestants who carry their wives across a 254-metre obstacle course. But at the Festa del Cornuto, outside Rome, the Festival of the Horns, the men of cheating wives’ parade, crying and smashing possessions they gifted them to honour and console their woe.
Confetti Battle is a tad more family-orientated, like Krampusnacht in Germany, where every December an anti-Santa hands every naughty kid a lump of coal. Why not dress as devils and jump over our babies, because it has constituted a festival for over four-hundred-years in Castrillo de Murcia, Spain? If you think Don Quixote in a Lycra Satan suit leaping over your darling isn’t quite psychologically traumatic enough for them, how about Tokyo’s Naki Sumo, where oversized sumo-wrestlers square-up in a ring, each holding a baby, the contest being the first to make the other’s baby cry? Supposed to ward off evil spirits, so if your kid sees no fear in the wrester, the referee jumps in donning a scary mask to ensure a change of nappy is needed.
Some are pleasant, like the Cheung Chau Bun Festival in Hong Kong, where competitors’ climb sixty-foot towers of sweet buns which line the streets. Or the Floating Lantern Festival in Hawaii, and Beer Floating in Finland; steady, floating down a river in an improvised raft gulping Carlsberg. Others equal this pleasantness but add humorous elements, like the village of Brawby, where the Yorkshire Pudding Boat Race takes place over Bob’s Pond.
Food leftover fights are commonplace, La Tomatina in Spain, The Battle of Oranges in Ivrea, Italy. I mean, sure, Rayne in Louisiana has a Frog Festival, and turkey testicle eating contests are widespread across the USA. Alongside the sinister Day of the Dead Festival, Mexico has Noche de Rábanos at Oaxaca, or “The Night of the Radishes.”
Korea has the Boryeong Mud Festival, where if you thought Pilton can get pretty filthy on a rainy July, you should see these lot engaging in mud photography workshops or having mud massages. But mud is great for the skin, ambiguously, especially the Boryeong mud used in their cosmetics. Or the valued tradition of Hadaka Matsuri in Okayama, where 9,000 naked Japanese men wrestle for sticks thrown by a Shinto priest. If the winner puts the sticks into a wooden box with rice, he will be contented the whole year.
Equally as cringeworthy to me, but hey, you might fancy the Japanese Kanamara Matsuri, or festival of the penis. They have penis artworks (unsure if they’re pictures of dicks or drawn with one, like drawing using a fat, wax crayon in your left-hand,) penis-shaped sweeties and carved vegetables, decorations, and a phallic mikoshi parade. Yet again the logic centres around a shrine once popular for prostitutes to pray for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. But legend has it, a Vagina Dentata demon lurks inside vaginas to castrate young men on their wedding night. If told that, you’d be celebrating the prosperity of your manhood.
Finland’s Air Guitar World Championships claims the ideology would end wars, stop climate change and eradicate all bad things. So, all of them have a history, or logic behind them, no matter how bizarre they may seem. Peru’s Cat Food Festival, for example, you may think this annual gathering in Cañete, where they munch on cats is to cull an overpopulated stray cat problem, but no, they breed the animals especially for human consumption at the gig. Apparently, cat meat has aphrodisiac properties and also prevents ailments in the bronchi; I’ll skip it and just try the veg, thanks all the same.
At least Thailand’s annual Monkey Buffet Festival isn’t as bad, despite the alarming name, it’s the monkeys who get a feast, not us nibbling on monkey meatloaf. They honour the descendants of a monkey warrior in Lopburi, and it’s a crowd-puller. Seems disease-spreading blood-sucking pests get honoured, The Great Texas Mosquito Festival brings three days of carnival to Clute; food, drink, games and rides, craft or cooking workshops.
Confetti Battle roots to Carnival in 1913, where confetti and rose petals were thrown by the crowd at people in the procession. The tradition evolved into a fully-fledged battle around 1955, started by Jim Jennings, but the reason is unknown. Maybe we need to make one up; a nobleman’s wedding that went horribly wrong?
Even bulls rampaging around the streets, averagely injuring three hundred people and killing fifteen at the Fiesta San Fermin, doesn’t stop people gathering and making a festival out of. Why then, should changing our relatively harmless confetti battle from Wednesday to a Saturday bother you?! I’m not suggesting we have a penis fest, or eat cat, but what Devizes has is unique, and could be on this list!
Devizes Confetti Battle
Devizes Market Place – Saturday 31st August 2019
Entertainment starts from 7.30pm
Battle commences 8.00pm
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