Around France

Summer’s in Full Swing in the South of France: It’s Uzès Fete Votive

There’s lots going on and plenty of people around to enjoy Uzès Fête Votive.

Uzès Fête Votive

A summer event that everyone looks forward to attending is Uzès Fête Votive. A few posts ago, I was raving about the Fête and saying how happy I was that it was coming back to Uzès soon. The long weekend event I remembered had been spectacular. In fact, I wondered how this year’s activities could equal the previous ones. Sadly, I was disappointed with the attraction I enjoyed the most– the Procession of Pégoulade — the parade down the main street.

But who wouldn’t be excited about this? As good as it gets!

Uzes Fete Votive

Abrivado in Uzès for Fête Votive


What is a Fête Votive?

Uzes Fete Votive

St. Theodoret Cathedral n Uzes

Fête Votives are celebrations with long traditions in many villages in south France. The festivals were customarily held at the end of harvest time. Today you see signs announcing various Fete Votives anytime during summer and fall. The event honors the patron saint of the town. In Uzès, the patron is Saint Theodoret of Antioch — the saint for whom the beautiful cathedral that stands majestically in the city is named. (The story of Saint Theodoret looks like something I will explore for a future post. Stay tuned ….)

When Fete Votive comes to town, you know it’s here when metal barricades are set up alongside the main street, Boulevard Gambetta. Running the bulls and horses is one of the first events — sponsored by various Abrivado clubs from the area and as far away as the Camargue. The town awards coveted prizes to the best animal handlers clubs.

While an Abrivado looks like a mad rush of animals, riders, and young men who follow behind, grabbing at the bulls, it’s pretty much orchestrated and managed. There are stories of bulls that break into the crowd — or spectators who get in the way of the “stampede.” Note: bull’s horns are covered with leather protectors, but just the force of a bull is enough to keep me out of the way! (Except to take photos, of course.)

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Uzes Fete Votive

Steak tartare at Ma Cantine

Uzès Fête Votive Fun with Friends

Activities for the Fete Votive seem endless. To be honest, I go to just a few. Getting together with friends for the Abrivado and the following parade is my own sort of tradition. This year, dinner at Ma Cantine was our place to be. The cafe is located right alongside Boulevard Gambetta. My friends and I didn’t miss a thing! Ma Cantine offers house specialties during Fete Votive, including their freshly hand-chopped steak tartare. It’s not one of my favorite dishes, but many visitors and locals love it. Add some hot sauce and crispy fries on the side, and my friends who tried it were in heaven.

Procession of Pégoulade

After dinner and close to dark, it was time for us to leave Ma Cantine and join the crowds waiting for the Procession of Pégoulade – a parade that starts at the Cathedral and ends at the bottom of the Boulevard. This year’s parade had a “back to the future” theme with a “robotic” float — ‘Turbulence Steampunk.” It was an ambidextrous steam engine with psychedelic lights and loud, booming music. Along with the float were “blowers” in belle époque costumes who ran in front and around the float shooting streamers of colored paper and confetti at everything and everyone in sight. Behind the “blowers” were ladies wearing flowing silk dresses who were walking effortlessly on stilts. They thrilled admirers by stooping over to paint elegant designs on the faces and arms of any who stepped forward. The Fete Votive procession, with fewer and fewer grand floats than in previous years, was still a fantastic sight to see as the process glided down the boulevard, silhouetted against the ancient buildings of Uzes.

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So … the challenge “How will they top the past years’ Procession of Pégoulade?” is answered. But there’s always next year.

Maybe you’ll be here to see it for yourself!

For photos and sounds from previous Fete Votive parades in Uzes,


10 replies »

  1. Great story & details on another great & fun French tradition. I wrote about Procession aux Limaces held in Gorbio, France. We are so lucky to share these wonderful stories & events. Thank you.

  2. Deborah you have really captured the essence and life of the fete votive!!! Very exciting photos and the commentary was quite good–PERFECT!!!

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