"The National Festival of Bulgarian Folklore"
We have compiled these based on our own experience over the last 5 festivals, and have already had positive feedback from people who visited the 2005 Festival.
The Official site for the 2005 Festival was wonderful although many people at the festival had not been able to find it. We hope this compilation is useful to you.
Please feel free to make suggestions as to additions by emailing us.
Founded: by the Communist State in order to preserve traditional Bulgarian Folklore.
Frequency: Held every five years (exceptions in 1971 & 2000)
Place: Koprivshtitsa Village, in the Sredna Gora Mountains, Central Bulgaria.
Timing: Usually the first or second weekend in August
Duration: Usually 3 days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (4 days in 2005 with the main action on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and the closing concert on Sunday)
Festival site: The Voivodenets meadows, above the village, approximately 30 minutes walk from the village. The performances takes place on 6-8 stages, 6-7 of these are allocated to specific folklore regions of Bulgaria, with the winners from each region performing on the Central Stage. Bulgarian television broadcasts the performances from this stage.
Years when Festivals took place:
1st - 1965 - 12th to 15th August
2nd - 1971 - 7th to 8th August
3rd – 1976 -
4th – 1981 - 7th to 9th August
5th – 1986 - 8th to 10th August
6th – 1991 - 9th to 11th August
7th – 1995 - 11th to 13th August (30 year jubilee)
8th – 2000 - 11th to 13th August (yes, this is correct!)
9th – 2005 - 3rd to 7th August (40th Anniversary)
1965 - 4,000 performers, visitors from 14 countries. 7 stages, Out of the 4,000 performers - 1144 were awarded honourary diplomas, 190 bronze medals, 160 silver medals, 100 gold medals.
1971 - Craft Exhibition with 2000 people taking part and 400 costumes on display
1976 - Around 3,000 performers. 1st time rituals and custom songs were performed, largest number of children performing.
1981 - 12,000 performers, 1st time a specific stage was dedicated to children's performances. There were 'other' activities in village.
1986 - 18,000 performers (or 12,000 from another source), 2,500 foreigners (largest number so far but more difficult to measure now as from 1990 visitors did not have to come via Balkantourist. Firewalking in village on Saturday evening (very difficult to see due to the crowds)
1991 - 18,000 performers (or 14,000 from another source), around 4,000 foreigners. Evening events in the village.
1995 - 16158 (or 15850) performers, 976 groups, 1,044 individual performances, 50 prominent folklorists acted as judges, 7 stages in Voiovenets, 2 stages in village, Firewalking in village on Saturday evening. All the performers received a diploma, 200 were awarded a special diploma for outstanding performances. You can see the seasoned performers from previous festivals proudly wearing their row of medals.
2005 - More than 15,000 performers were expected (but did they all manage to get there?) and 250,000 guests. Performers selected from participants at 27 regional festivals, Groups of Bulgarians from abroad and non Bulgarian folksong and dance enthusiasts performed in the evenings on 2 stages in the village. Opening and closing concerts were broadcast on Bulgarian television. Wettest festival with severe floods in the surrounding areas of Bulgaria. Saturdays performances were held in the village, in the school hall, town hall and on the 2 constructed stages in the village centre. Congratulations to the organisers for their efficient reorganisation against all the odds!
Summary / Overview of programmes from 1986, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2005
Stage 1 – South West - Sofia, Kjustendil, Pernik, Blagoevgrad
Stage 2 – North West - Vratsa, Montana, Vidin, Lovech
Stage 3 – Bourgas, Stara Zagora, Yambol, Sliven,
Stage 4 – Rousse, Shoumen, Dobritch, Silistra, Varna
Stage 5 – Pleven, Gabrovo, Veliko Turnovo, Razgrad, Turgovishte
Stage 6 – Dimitrovgrad, Plovdiv, Smolyan, Haskovo, Kurdjali, Pazardzhik
In 2005 there were 7 stages in Voivodenets.
Viewing prospects based on 2005 arrangement of stages:
Stage 1 – flat, OK if not too many people
Stage 2 – Slight incline, viewing pretty good
Stage 3 – Steep grassy slopes, best view if you can avoid slipping down the hillside (Previously Stage 2)
Stage 4 – Slight slope down to the stage, reasonable sitting area (Previously Stage 3)
Stage 5 – Very close to the path across the site, and on the flat. Small slope on other sides of path, but generally not much space. (Previously Stage 4)
Stage 6 – 1st stage you reach on entering the site, fairly flat around stage, slopes slightly further away on both sides of stage with some shade from the sun. (Previously Stage 5)
Stage 7 - Wide flat space and slopes under trees. (Previously Stage 6)
Central stage – difficult to get a good view round the TV cameras. Wide viewing space but on other side of path through site, and only slightly sloped.
Tips if thinking of going in 5 years time!:
Take all you need before making the 30 minute walk up to the festival site. There are a choice of routes depending which end of the festival site you prefer to reach first.
Allow plenty of time to go between stages. It is around 20 minutes across the festival site if the way is clear, but it never is during festival time so it can take more like an hour at the busiest times, or all day if you stop on the way. The path is narrow and most people walk slowly.
If you want to see the end of the performances don’t expect to be back for an evening meal in the village.
Visit the campsite for all night music and dancing.
Wear sunscreen and drink plenty of non alcoholic drinks - the sun is deceptively strong up on the festival site. Take your waterproofs in case the change in the weather patterns persists!
Umbrella is useful – both as a sunshade and in case it does rain (it has at least once in the last 4 festivals). NO COMMENT re 2005!
Changes over time
Now have to pay entry fee and licence for photography and video. (Video only in 2005)
Performers more inclined to just wear their full costumes for their performances and change into more practical clothes for the rest of the day.
Food & drink is now readily available, unlike in Communist times.
Many Stalls selling Bulgarian handicrafts, handmade folk instruments, CDs and cassettes, pieces of old folk costumes and all other types of antiques, both on the festival site and in the village.
In 2005 the ratio of foreigners to Bulgarians was drastically increased. Was this due to the change in dates for the festival so that it started on Thursday? Most Bulgarians used to come from Friday evening to Sunday. Or was it due to the poor weather which by Saturday had become the floods which blocked the roads in the surrounding areas? However, the performers still managed to get to the village?
Visits to Koprivshtitsa festival in 1986, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2005.
Festival programmes 1991, 1995, 2000
Rough guide to Bulgaria – Bulgarian Music Section - Kim Burton
Sleeve Notes Balkanton LPs BHA 1293, 10887/88
Notes from Jordanka (Dani) Kotseva, BBFS tour guide 1995, 2005
Official Koprivshtitsa Web Site 2005 www.sabor-koprivshtica.mct.government.bg