To some it is seen as the unofficial beginning of the main tourist season, but the Feast of St. Prosper, patron saint of Hvar Town, is also one of the most celebrated local festivals of the year by the local community, as Digital Journal witnessed at various events throughout the day on May 10, 2012.
Better known for its sunshine, beaches and celebrity draw, tourists on the island yesterday were treated to an altogether different presentation of the island's rich natural goodness, as many of Hvar's organic and home-made products were on show, as well as traditional dance, a religious procession and a gastronomic feast in the evening.
The day's events began at 10:00, as the main square was given over to the organisers of the daytime celebrations, Forske Uzonce. A local organisation whose mandate is to preserve and promote the traditions of the island, Forske Uzonce is playing an important role in showcasing the more traditional aspects of Hvar's rich cultural heritage.
There were many street stalls, selling a variety of home-made food and island souvenirs, as well as live performances including ballet, music dance, and the numerous tourists enjoyed a spectacular introduction to traditional Hvar.
The focus on the natural products of the island at the festival is part of several initiatives to diversify the island's considerable tourism offer. While the island is best known for its climate and nightlife, there have been several successful steps in recent times to expand its year-round agro-tourism offer.
Also known as the Lavender Island, the village of Velo Grablje - which was once the centre of lavender production for Dalmatia and today has a population of just five - will be hosting its fourth lavender festival next month; one of Croatia's leading honey producers, Boris Buratovic, whose rosemary honey came fourth at the 2011 Apimondia in Argentina, is offering the first honey tour on the island and will be organising the first honey festival in Stari Grad in July; and the recently-formed Hvar Winemakers Association
yesterday announced an 8-week intern programme with a university in California, starting in May next year.
After a day of festivities on the main square, the celebration of the town's patron saint turned to the Cathedral, where a mass was held at 1830, followed by a procession through the town square, which was attended by more than a thousand people. The evening entertainment was mostly held inside the impressive Arsenal building, where Hvar's restaurants put on an impressive culinary show, but there were still some treats for tourists who remained on the square, including this impromptu performance from Klapa Galesnik, one of Dalmatia's must accomplished male singing groups (click video below).
The gastronomic event was well attended and the quality of food was excellent. A judging panel, led by Zlatko Marinovic from Split restaurant Nostromo and captain of the young Dalmatian team heading to the culinary Olympics in Erfurt in October, chose the best starters, mains and desserts.
Best starter went to diVino, followed by Hotel Riva and Lungo Mare. The main course top three were Lungo Mare, Gariful and Dalmatino, while the prizes for desserts went to Kod Kapetana, who beat Hotel Riva and diVino.
It was a great family day for all and an excellent showcase of the island's lesser-known but strongly emerging alternative tourism strengths.