There were a lot of homesickness, both on the part of the hikers, the event organizers and the local population. After the reunion, on the long weekend of 25 April, the 9th edition of the Ameixial Hiking Festival was done, which fulfilled its mission and once again left a «positive footprint» in this mountain village of Loulé, economic level and intervention in the landscape.
On the return to normality after the pandemic - in 2021, the festival took place, but in a very reduced version -, the many entities involved in the organization of the WFA (Walking Festival Ameixial) managed to make this event again make a difference, in terms of local economy concerns.
«We managed to achieve what the festival's mission is, to leave a positive footprint in Ameixial. This was also achieved from an economic point of view. Although the accounts are not yet fully closed, the provisional balance of the financial impact of the festival was more than 3500 euros», he revealed to Sul Informação João Ministro, from the company ProActiveTur, which organizes together with the Estela Project this event promoted jointly by Cooperativa QRER, Câmara de Loulé and Junta de Freguesia do Ameixial.
And this «only of values that passed through us, because I would say it was more than that, I am only referring here to meals that passed through us, passwords that we controlled».
«We are not estimating, for example, consumptions made in the surrounding villages, namely in Cortelha and in the municipality of Almodôvar. We are not estimating the gas station, which will certainly have had its return, or other cafes”, he added.
Also at the level of participants, the balance is positive, especially considering that, due to the uncertainties of the pandemic, the festival's disclosure was later than in other years.
«We had around 200 people who participated in various activities, which resulted in around 500 participations. This is a figure below what we have had in other years, but for us it was an excellent result, especially because we actually started to prepare everything very well. It was not possible for us to organize this with more time», explained João Ministro.
The WFA organizers also continue to give “a very special focus to local values”, which resulted in two activities “at the level of heritage, nature and culture”.
This area of intervention in the landscape is coordinated by Pedro Barros, archaeologist of the Estela project, who also spoke with the Sul Informação.
«I think that valuing the territory, not just being an event, but also leaving a mark on the territory, is quite relevant. This year was the first time that we opted for community spaces and not just spaces provided by the community. In addition to the sports group and the primary school, there were events that took place mainly at Dona Maria's café, which ensured an even stronger connection to the community and recognition of the work that is done», said the archaeologist.
"There was a feedback very positive on the part of the community that was working on it», he assured.
With regard to interventions in the landscape, a hallmark of the festival, «there was a recovery of a traditional source and the construction and installation of rammed earth benches on local routes».
«We made this contribution by showing an ancient source, before the first half of the XNUMXth century, and trying to recover it. The work has not yet been completed, but the potential is very interesting. It was a participatory experience that had about two dozen people in the two days. There was an enthusiasm to discover what was already covered by the roots and the lands”, he said.
«Regarding the construction and installation of a rammed earth bench along the Ameixial course, it also turns out to be quite positive, not only because of the recovery aspect of this ancestral technique, which is rammed earth construction, but also because it is a natural element within of the landscape», Pedro Barros continued.
The bank in question will be «to act as a viewpoint for the village of Ameixial next to the windmills. Seven or eight people participated, who were plowing the earth for one morning, and I think the final result is of great added value to the village».
Another aspect that was deepened in this edition was the international component of the festival.
“We have recently integrated a network of responsible tourism festivals across Europe, and the first public presentation of this network was made during the WFA. We had a moment when four festivals – ours, one from France, one from Belgium and one from Italy – were talking about a network that is being formed at the level of several countries, to promote and share experiences between various events. of a similar nature", stressed João Ministro.
This year's edition of the Ameixial Hiking Festival was also marked by the holding of technical sessions on ancient paths, «which I think was also a very important aspect and that had a lot of assistance», he said.
From this conversation, “an opportunity arose to carry out a future project in partnership with the Loulé Chamber in terms of valuing old paths which, as was evident in that session, is a heritage whose value and interest that everyone recognizes”.
This year, there was also a novelty in terms of gastronomy, a Street Food Van of vegetarian food, which was immensely successful.
In 2023, the festival will have its 10th edition and, although there is still nothing concrete, it is certain that it will be «a very special event»
«We are making an effort for this edition to be something memorable, with improvements of what has been done. We want it to be special, without leaving the essence of the festival. We still don't know how it will be, but we have no shortage of ideas», assures João Ministro.
«For the year, we want to diversify the walks, we want to present a new range of walks, new things, in other territories of the parish, so as not to be too repetitive», he concluded.
Photos: Pedro Barros | Walking Festival Ameixial/Project Estela