One of the things you learn very quickly living in Croatia is that Croatians love to celebrate their food. But not just in the excellent and healthy dishes made from the freshest seasonal ingredients, but by dedicating festivals to individual fruits and vegetables.
There seems to be an unofficial motto here of ‘if it grows, create a festival.’ My long-time place of residence, the island of Hvar, for example, hosts a unique lavender festival each June. And nowhere else in the world have I come across an edible dormouse festival.
Among the many niche food festivals you will find on the Croatian calendar are fava beans in Kastela (and yes, fava bean ice cream is a thing), the celebration of chestnuts in Hrvatska Kostajnica, paprika in Lug, cabbage in Vidovec, potatoes in Porec, and truffles in Buzet has been a fascinating culinary journey for me during my time in Croatia. But then it comes to pumpkins, there is only one place to go.
Ivanic Grad, just outside Zagreb, in autumn for the Bucijada pumpkin festival.
Being an adopted Dalmatian boy, my Croatian conversion to pumpkin oil came rather late in life. With the liquid gold olive oil produced in Dalmatia, was there indeed any need for any other kind of oil?
Moving to Varazdin showed me that there was, and pumpkin oil is far more prevalent than olive oil in parts of continental Croatia. The unlikeliest hit of all was vanilla ice cream and pumpkin oil. Try it, it is magnificent.
But pumpkin oil is just one use for this very versatile vegetable, whose culinary range is best showcased in the annual pumpkin festival in Ivanic-Grad, known as Bucijada. One of the novelties I tried on my last visit to Bucijada was pumpkin beer, which was surprisingly tasty – almost akin to a wheat beer.
This year’s event will take place this weekend, from October 1 to 3, and it really is a great family event, even more so perhaps this year, as the 17th edition of Bucijada coincides with the 7th Toy Festival, thereby giving a double dose of family fun out in the healthy environs of Zagreb county. You can get a snapshot of how Bucijada looks through the eyes of a young visitor in this excellent vlog below.
There is also plenty of gourmet and activity fun for adults at least, not least the opportunity to taste a range of pumpkin products, as well as to get better acquainted with one of the rising stars of the Croatian wine scene – the locally grown grape variety of Skrlet.
Ankica Bester, director of the Ivanić-Grad Tourist Board office, told TCN a little more:
“The novelty of this year’s Bucijada is that at the same time the 7th Toy Festival is held at the Zelenjak Sports Park and with SB Naftalan where a rich program has been prepared for the youngest, from performances by First Applause, playrooms, workshops, plays, toy fair and content within the model fortress of Tvrđa Ivanich. At the event itself, the “Educational-presentation center of pumpkin oil” of the association of pumpkin oil producers of Croatia and the City of Ivanic-Grad will be opened next to the Maznica market, where you will be able to see how cold-pressed pumpkin oil is pressed.
“This year’s Bucijada is being held in open public areas at several locations in the city center and at the Zelenjak Sports Park in order to adapt to current epidemiological measures.”
More details can be found on the Ivanic-Grad Tourist Board website, as well as from the official press release below:
The beginning of October is the right time to visit Ivanic-Grad and the Bučijada exhibition and sales fair.
The seventeenth edition of the largest and most visited tourist, economic and gastronomic event in Croatia this year will be held on October 2 and 3, 2021.
Organized by the Tourist Board of Ivanic-Grad with co-organizers and under the auspices of the City of Ivanic-Grad, Zagreb County, the Tourist Board of Zagreb County and Croatian National Tourist Board, and sponsors: INA d.d., Hrvatske sume d.o.o. and Zagrebacka banka in Ivanic-Grad will host the 17th Bucijada and the 7th Toy Festival.
More than 170 exhibitors from all over Croatia are participating in this year’s sales fair, of which 28 are pumpkin seed oil producers, 14 are organic farms and about 50 are family farms.
They will offer pumpkins, pumpkin oil, pumpkin products and other eco-ethno products in the city center in several locations. This year as well, the caterers have prepared creative pumpkin menus in their premises, restaurants and rural estates.
Along with pumpkin beer and indigenous skrlet wine, there will be gastro snacks and pumpkins on the town square.
The grand opening of the 17th Bucijada will be held on October 2 (Saturday) 2021 at 11.00 on the stage at Trg V. Nazora in Ivanic-Grad, which will be attended by the mayor of Javor Bojan Les and numerous guests.
After the opening ceremony, at 11.30 am, the “Educational and Presentation Center of Pumpkin Oil” of the Association of Pumpkin Oil Producers of Croatia and the City of Ivanić-Grad will officially open its doors, where you will be able to see how cold-pressed pumpkin oil is pressed.
On Saturday at 12.00 is the opening of the 7th Toy Festival in SP Zelenjak and with SB Naftalan, where a rich program has been prepared for the youngest, from playrooms, workshops, plays and a toy fair, with entertainment from First Applause.
The godmother of the 17th Bucijada, Anita Kajtazi Roth, is coming on Sunday at 10.30.
City institutions and associations have prepared numerous exhibitions, so in the POU you can see the exhibition “150 years of Ivanic-Grad”, in the Museum of Ivanic-Grad “Culture and History of Ivanic-Grad”, and with the Fire Department Ivanic-Grad exhibitions of mushrooms and small animals.
Several thematic tourist walks were organized, departing from the Visitor Center near the market.
The entertaining part of the program is guaranteed throughout the day, especially with the evening concerts of Petar Graša, Đani Stipaničev and Renata Sabljak. KUDs in traditional Moslavina and Posavina costumes will walk around the city,
and in the Park of Croatian Veterans, a small Pumpkin Village will be arranged with attractive pumpkin decorations, by which this event is recognizable.
The event is held in compliance with all applicable epidemiological measures.
Come, taste, feel, see – 17. Bucijada!
Read more about the unusual food festivals in Croatia in Natural Food Festivals: 25 Things to Know about Croatian Gourmet Goodness.