Kurentovanje carnival kicks off in Ptuj
Ptuj, 15 February - The 60th Kurentovanje carnival will get under way in the town of Ptuj in north-east Slovenia on Saturday, bringing together thousands of traditional masks and costumes. For the first time ever during Kurentovanje, the popular festival will showcase decadent Venetian masks and exotic appearances from Bolivia.
Kurentovanje will, of course, feature Kurents as well, scary and clamorous sheep-skin wearing Slovenian costumes, with almost thousand of them hitting the streets of Ptuj today.
The biggest carnival in the country remains the greatest museum of intangible carnival heritage, according to the organisers, with another new feature of this year's event being a Kurent marketplace - a venue for showcasing traditional carnival masks and the final destination of the today's opening procession.
More than 2,200 persons or 44 groups from across the world are expected to take part in the procession, and four costumes which are protected by UNESCO.
Until 25 February, over 2,000 Kurents will participate in the festival's events, with the main procession next Sunday featuring more than 3,000 masks or almost 50 groups from eleven countries. Meanwhile, Wednesday will be dedicated to Kurents in particular.
Every year, the carnival attracts some 100,000 visitors from Slovenia and abroad.
The first procession of traditional masks was held in February 1960 to preserve the local carnival heritage, most notably Kurents.
After the Second World War, carnival customs continued to die out, but due to efforts to preserve them for future generations they have endured and are still driving away winter and entertaining crowds.
Following the first procession, the Ptuj carnival quickly turned into an international event, first attracting masks and costumes from the former Yugoslavia and neighbouring countries and later featuring attractions from more distant countries as well.
In the 1990s, Kurentovanje became a multi-day event. Today, the merrymaking finishes after some ten days of goofing around with a ceremonial burial of carnival on Shrove Tuesday and a post-burial feast including famous carnival doughnuts.
During the past two decades, the Ptuj mayor symbolically hands over control of the town to the carnival prince, who makes sure that the festivities run smoothly. This honourable and light-hearted role is bestowed upon a new person every two years who has contributed to local heritage protection.