The Dangers of Donkey Racing and a Rise in Class of the Jelsa Wine Festival

Total Croatia News

A casualty at the annual donkey races, and a visible raising of standards at this year’s Festa Vina.

You can take the boy out of Dalmatia, but you can’t take Dalmatia out of the boy…

It is all very well impressing me with international music festivals in Roman amphitheatres, but nothing quite beats the eclectic nature of the Jelsa Wine Festival, complete with donkey racing, climbing the rope for the prsut and – for the first time in years – a focus on quality wine.

The Jelsa Wine Festival, or Festa Vina, is probably the biggest night on the Jelsa calendar, attracting many people from the mainland, and in the time I have been here, it has always been boisterous, and a little chaotic. Something changed this year.

I was on the bus back from Pula for the opening night on Friday, but The Boss commented on how much livelier and well organised the first night was, even more spectacular from the Total Hvar terrace. The team from Go Hvar were in town and summed up the atmosphere very nicely – check it out here.  

The party started early, and this excellent moving troupe from Zagroje, not for from Zagreb, were particularly excellent and very well received. 

Even though The Bench expanded its seating arrangements, there was still no place for this Englishman. Perhaps one day I will finally fulfil that remaining Jelsa ambition… 

Much more impressive, however, was that the festival was a LOT more oriented towards tourists this year. The welcoming speeches were in at least five languages, which was definitely a first, there were incentives for the first people to arrive by boat, and quite amazingly for a wine festival – there was a dedicated section where the Hvar Wine Association could present its quality wines, and where beer could not be sold. As crazy as it sounds for a major wine festival on an island of wine, this was a groundbreaking development. Congratulations to all the organisers on some sensible and marked improvements on this Jelsa institution of fun, something to build on for next year.

No Jelsa wine festival is complete without some serious donkey racing, and there is no better donkey racer that Petar, cousin of our very own Professor Frank John, Guardian of the Hvar dialects – new lesson coming shortly by the way, which will include some rather interesting body language from The Professor. Fearless Petar was leading the way, assisted by a cute baby donkey, when the unthinkable happened… 

Where’s Petar? 

Come back, Donkey. Our fearless warrior was thrown from the donkey right in front of the Total Hvar camera (wish I was better at using it), and he seemed to be ok, but a lesson to take care when donkey racing.  

If you need any tips on how to sit on a donkey, Petar, here is The Professor with Total Hvar Junior. 

This tired correspondent retired early to bed, but the party went on long into the night, but all has now been cleaned up, and all organisers and participants can congratulate themselves on two days of quality partying to be proud of. 


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