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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stresa: Carnevale -- The Procession Of King Falcett

First, I heard the drums...
Although inside with windows closed, I heard the marching beat of the drums coming closer with each step. That's when I remembered, "Ah! It's Carnevale oggi, today!" So I rushed outside and followed the sound to the lakefront, luckily arriving in advance of the slow-moving procession. A good portion of the parking lot in front of the Stresa Imbarcadero had been kept empty for the ensuing show. Leading the parade were King Falcett and his queen, being chauffered in great style in a historic automobile very reminiscent of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, just without the wings.


Following them, in a carriage pulled by a pony, were five little princesses, who waved to the crowd and showered it with paper confetti.  ....  (continued)

So, who is King Falcett? Why is he Stresa's Carnevale king? It seems that for many centuries the inhabitants of Stresa had a nickname, Falcitt. The falcetto is the sickle-shaped steel knife used in farming for pruning and cutting. One can find still, around Stresa, a coat of arms design with the falcetto in the center of a shield. From this nickname, at Carnevale time, a king of the Falcitt, a King Falcett, was chosen to lead the festivities, and this tradition continues today.


The day was gray, but not too cold; the princesses kept warm in velvet capes and winter boots.


Next came a procession of members of the court. Their leader carried a banner which read Palio di Asti, Sbandierato Comune di San Damiano. This was this year's visiting court, come all the way from San Damiano d'Asti, a small comune to the west, near Torino, in Piemonte. They brought with them their famous flag performing troupe. 


Everyone in the crowd was dressed in Carnevale finery.


The townspeople, including these little maidens and one kitty, formed a large ring around the square, giving the performers the space they needed.


To the accompaniment of the drums and trumpets the group of ten young men performed several intricately choreographed routines with the large bright bandiere, the flags. 



They tossed, twirled, and threw in perfect synchronization without any drops or errors. The grand finale was this pyramid. The crowd loved it. Much applause and confetti followed;


even the pony was looking festive.


Meanwhile, back in Piazza Cadorna, another crowd was gathering. They were waiting for King Falcett and his court to arrive as well. This crowd was waiting for the costume contest that the court would judge. Among the interesting costumes in the piazza I noticed this falcetto-wielding box of french fries,  


a little lion cub riding on a matching pony,


blooming flowers,


 a pirate and clown with a good view,


and a mini king.


Once arrived in Piazza Cadorna the court all took their seats on the stage. The fancy dress costume contest was about to begin. But this was when I left the festivities to return inside. And therefore, I did not discover who won the contest. 


What fun to witness this annual Stresa tradition and to see the joy on the faces of young and old. Much of the 'court', by the way. were Stresa residents, who volunteered for the positions in the days preceding the event and went to the staging ground at Hotel Meeting to be costumed. What a nice tradition this must be... I can imagine Stresa children having a chance at this at some time in their childhoods and enjoying the memory forever. 



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