Party like it’s 1999 (E.P.F. 2019)
Updated: Jul 29
Returning to Portugal for the European People's Festival
I arrived 20 years late and seriously overweight for my first European People’s Festival.
The fact that I was back should tell you how much I loved my first festival back in 1999.
It was time to party like it was 1999 but I didn’t join in in the Karaoke when the Danes sang Summer of 69.
Back in 1969, France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries were the only EU members but despite losing one member to Brexit, European Unity has grown over the last fifty years and has grown considerably since my first festival in Portugal in 1999.
While there was only 15 countries represented at this year’s festival which is almost half the number of countries in the E.U. the fact that Poland, Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania were present shows how much the E.U. has grown since my very first festival with the accession of 10 countries on May 1st 2004.
It was great to be back but I was disappointed at my failed attempts to attract some amigos to Portugal. Firstly my girlfriend was working, then another two friends dropped out of the idea and thirdly, my attempts to attract the Madrid Harps G.A.A. team failed as it was taken place at the same time as the World G.A.A. Games in Waterford.
Having some of the Harps would have been great as the team consists of some fine singers as well as multi-disciplined athletes. A friend who was visiting Madrid for July was almost roped in but she had to return home unexpectedly which was a pity as my friend who I knew originally from the Harps was also a cyclist, swimmer and basketball player.
It is hard to explain the festival to friends and family and I had also tried and failed to encourage my parents to Portugal. The event is like no other, it is not a music festival even though I did enjoy The Stranglers’ epic concert on one of the nights. It is not just a sporting event as many members will be amateur at best and I was called upon to swim for the team as the swimming and football events took place at the same time and of course it is not a singing festival either as we have Eurovision for that. The European People’s Festival is a mixture of cooking and culture, kicking balls and scoring baskets while meeting teams from all over Europe. For me it was trying to capture photographs for the Photo Competition while others had to paint the down of Cantenhede.
On my last night in Portugal, I was talking to a guy from Lithuanian when an American lady came along to introduce herself as being 65% Irish which attracted strange looks from me and my European friend as we politely enquired about the remaining 35%. It was a bizarre moment indeed as the American, (sorry mostly Irish) interrupted the European gathering in which we were all speaking several different languages and my very basic German allowed me to order bier quite fluently from the German stand whereas the Scottish Whisky left it difficult to see and stand.