French folklore, particularly rich in the Vendée
French folklore in the Vendée has a wealth of festivals, shows and entertainment to enjoy as part of your holiday. From traditional costumed events to gastronomic evening events, sampling local dishes and produces, there are over 500 different activities to choose from.
Fish and sardine festivals - Saint Gilles Croix de Vie
Saint Gilles Croix de Vie organises several traditional festivals each year and is well known for its strong maritime heritage dedicated to fishing and sardines. On the last Sunday in July, the Sardine Festival is the place to try grilled sardines or sardine soup. Local entertainment including French folklore groups and sea shanty choirs create a festive mode. On the first Sunday in August, it is the turn of the Fish Festival. Grilled sardines, mussels, traditional music, and sea shanties are the order of the day as well as a dove release. This is all rounded off with dancing at the public ball. The second Sunday in August, there is a celebration on the quayside in Port Fidèle.
Bonnotte potato festival – part of French gastronomy and the pride in Noirmoutier
For the last fifteen years or so, in May, the Ile de Noirmoutier celebrates the island's famous "bonnotte" potato. Young producers provide entertainment such as demonstrating gentle traditional harvesting methods. The festival offers a french gastronomy evening event: at sunset, a dinner with musical entertainment is held in the cooperative.
Autrefois Challans: back to happy-go-lucky days in 1910
The "Association Autrefois Challans" presents the "Foire à l’ancienne" when the town of Challans travels back in time to 1910. This ancient fair takes place two Thursdays in July and two Thursdays in August portraying the traditions and heritage of the North-West Vendée.
During the fair, nearly 1,450 volunteers in period costumes recreate local habits and customs from early 20th century. At every street corner a new activity in the local dialect reveals itself: a poultry and pig fair, parades of false officials, elegant women, local firefighters, folk groups and even the Tour de France 1910 makes an appearance. In the evening, a traditional Maraîchine wedding brings the fair to its close. A nostalgic experience from yesteryear.
Admission to the fair is completely free and attracts more than 160,000 visitors of all ages, each year.
The Vendée va’a Polynesian canoe race in les Sables d’Olonne
In May each year, the Vendée hosts the spectacular Polynesian canoe race: the "Vendée Va'a"! Aboard their V6 (a canoe with six rowers), over 15 teams will battle it out in a race of 100 km long. The race is in three legs over two days: from Les Sables d'Olonne, Saint Gilles Croix de Vie, Ile d'Yeu and then back to Les Sables d'Olonne where they will be judged.