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Lemons and limes bring to mind the summer seasons, but in the small town of Menton ?in France, February is the time for colorful rinds. One of the best festivals in France is La Fête du Citron, or the lemon festival - when citrus fruits are the center exhibition for nearly a month of giant sculptures, exhibits and parades.
Fleeting renditions of the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and Hindu gods take on the iridescent orange and yellow glow of thousands of oranges and lemons. According to the festival's official website, some of the pulp sculptures display more than fifteen tons of fruit, as they rise several stories off the ground. Come nighttime, the garden that houses these displays light up and parades of musicians, fire twirlers and dancers take to the streets along with a series of artistic and ethereal floats. It's an 81-year-old tradition, and this season is shaping up to be yet another trip of the same.
History of the lemon
The festival playfully traces its roots to the legend of how lemons came to be in Menton. According to the story, Eve found a golden fruit after being expelled from the Garden of Eden, but Adam insisted she throw it away. She agreed, only if she was allowed to throw it where she wanted. They eventually stumbled across a lush, beautiful and temperate landscape that reminded them of paradise, and so they buried it there. A lemon tree and the town of Menton soon followed.
In truth, the festival has its official origins in 1895, when hoteliers suggested that Menton host a parade. In a short time, the festival became so popular so as to attract royal visitors in addition to the locals. The festival had confetti, flower processions, and bonfires, but fruit didn't become a part of the events until 1935, when Menton aimed to inject some of its local flavor into the festivities. Menton was the leading lemon grower in all of Europe, and the fruit became in obvious choice for the festival's centerpiece. The event has since taken on themes that dictate the sophisticated sculptures and floats, such as love and passion, Pinocchio and Spain. This year's theme is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
A medley of events
On Sundays throughout the festival, a lively procession will take to the streets as it heads to the sea front. Thursdays mark the night-time parades. However, travelers can stroll among the fruit sculptures any time in the Biovès Gardens. They will play host to the sculptures throughout the festival, where fruits will catch sunlight in the day and shine bright by light arrangements in the evening.
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