Smuggling Festival grows and «maintains the same quality» even without State support

Mayor of Alcoutim warns that, in the future, without support, the event will not be able to maintain the same quality

Photos: Nuno Costa | Sul Informação

The extinction of 365 Algarve «left a bit of an orphan» the Contrabando Festival, which takes place from the 24th to the 26th of March, but the Alcoutim Council, the other “progenitor” of this event, hopes that, in the very near future, the Government will create a line of financing that will help face the heavy costs of the festival, which include the installation of the floating bridge that so many people attracts Alcoutim and Sanlúcar de Guadiana for three days.

In the year in which the largest and probably most popular edition of the event is being prepared, with novelties and expansion to new locations, the Alcoutim Council, which organizes the event with neighboring Sanlúcar de Guadiana, in Spain, will even assume the burdens inherent in holding the festival in Portugal, without any forecast for the arrival of any support from the central government.

And, as he explained to Sul Informação Osvaldo Gonçalves, mayor of Alcoutim, expenses will be much higher in 2023 than in previous years.

«We are facing a brutal increase in expenditure, at all levels, not only with regard to the pontoon bridge, but also in terms of logistics and even the artists. The budget had a significant change», revealed Osvaldo Gonçalves.


Osvaldo Gonçalves – Photo: Flávio Costa | Sul Informação


Yesterday, February 15, the mayor of Alcoutenejo took advantage of the presence of Nuno Fazenda, Secretary of State for Tourism, in his municipality, to appeal for the Government's support for an event that he helped to create, and which is now «a reference».

«The Festival do Contrabando is a child of the municipality of Alcoutim and “365 Algarve”. It will be very difficult, in the future, to maintain the quality of the event, if only one of the parents finances it», summarized the mayor.

“I noticed that Mr. Secretary of State was touched and concerned about our request. We cherish the hope that it will be introduced in Portugal Events, whose regulations are still being defined », he added.

And, bearing in mind that Osvaldo Gonçalves is «an optimist», he believes that «support will arrive».

In 2023, the Alcoutenejo municipality chose to invest, to maintain «the same quality as always» and meet the expectations of the many visitors that are expected.

In 2023, even without any guaranteed national support, the two municipalities that organize the event do not put their foot on the brakes, as far as the size of the party is concerned, in what will be the year of full return, after the pandemic.

«The schedule is a mix of the 2020 edition that was cancelled. At the time, we committed to paying 50% to artists who wanted to, but not everyone wanted to. So, we already had part of the schedule secured. However, as we have not held the festival since 2019, we have tried to diversify and, at least, guarantee that variety that we always had and, perhaps, increase a little», according to Júlio Cardoso, from the Culture, Cultural Heritage and Tourism Unit of the Câmara de Alcoutim .

The technician from the Alcouteneja municipality, who coordinates the event's programming, spoke with the Sul Informação on the sidelines of a presentation of the Festival do Contrabando poster, which took place on Saturday, the 11th, at the Finca Contrabando guesthouse, in Sanlúcar do Guadiana, and was attended by José María Perez, the local mayor.

This initiative aimed to lift the veil on this year's edition of the festival, whose official presentation and with the full lineup will take place at the beginning of March, at the Lisbon Tourism Exchange.


José María Pérez, mayor of Sanlúcar, and Júlio Cardoso – Photo: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação

For now, Júlio Cardoso reveals that the event will grow physically. «This year we are also going to the Alcoutim river beach, with a craft beer market and shows. We are also going to put on shows in some local businesses, we are going to have parallel programs in some businesses that want to participate».

The organizers of the Festival do Contrabando will “focus on street itinerant groups, street theatre”, but also on gastronomy and the producers' market.

«Where we want to establish ourselves is at the level of street theater, bringing in very good artists, whether from the new circus area, with juggling, or in music. Deep down, we will have a little of what we had, but with greater diversity», revealed the member of the organization.

«This is not a festival that brings big names, known at national or Iberian level, but it brings artists from all over the world. This year we have artists from South America, Argentina, Chile, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, northern Spain », he added.

As for the producers' market, it will be installed «on both sides of the Guadiana» and it is intended that it be, as much as possible, faithful to what would have been an event in the 40s. «We are filtering, there are people who feel sorry for not being able to come, but we want to maintain authenticity as much as possible».

The organization also appeals to the local population and visitors to dress up, with costumes reminiscent of the 40s. «This year, instead of a photography contest, we are going to launch a costume contest, with prizes such as local experiences to enjoy throughout the year, a weekend with accommodation and meals, boat trips and walks, among others, to encourage people to come dressed in season», revealed Júlio Cardoso.

At the presentation of the event, in Spain, many of the guests for the presentation, as well as those responsible for Finca Contrabando, including its owner, Marta, also dressed up. This accommodation unit is inspired, moreover, by the bet that is being made in this territory around the theme of smuggling, of which the festival is the maximum exponent.


Photos: Hugo Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Since its creation in 2017, the event has always grown from year to year and showed no signs of slowing down – quite the opposite. After three years without being able to take place in the usual way, the return to normal is being greeted with enthusiasm on social networks, which leads the organization to expect a big flood.

Júlio Cardoso's expectation is that the festival will attract «about 50 thousand people in three days», which will require good preparation, in order to guarantee the capacity to respond.

«Alcoutim and Sanlúcar are what they are, they have their limitations. Alcoutim has 500 inhabitants, Sanlúcar has 400… Even so, we try to improve conditions year after year, namely in terms of parking. We know that many excursion companies come by bus, there are boats that want to come, regattas are scheduled. We are trying to create conditions. We are going to increase the area for food stands, we are going to increase the parking areas », he said.

The Alcoutim Council technician, who does not hide a «fear, but a good one» in relation to the ability to face the foreseeable flood, believes that, in the end, everyone will leave Alcoutim and Sanlúcar happy.

«This is a festival that, due to its proximity to the public, normally does not generate serious criticism. That is, the diversity of programming, authenticity, street shows end up erasing what goes less well. People end up not leaving a mark on their criticism », he concluded.



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