The story of La Fête du Citron® told by its mascot, John Lemon
Dates : From 16th february to 3rd march 2019.
Place : City of Menton
John Lemon has been the mascot for La Fête du Citron® since 2014. He is a cute little lemon with bright eyes and a wide yellow smile. Who better to tell us about the history of this unique event?
“It all began in 1928 in the gardens of one of the most beautiful hotels in Menton – the Riviera Palace. The management put forward the idea of a flower exhibition and citrus fruit displayed in gold and silver-painted wicker baskets. My grandfather was there in one of the baskets! He often told me that the wealthy (and frequently blasé) residents staying in this luxurious establishment were so enthusiastic about the event that it was repeated over the following years. The Menton Florists’ Association also thought about celebrating this fantastic fruit, which was enjoyed by the town in such large quantities. So, in 1934, La Fête du Citron® was organised,backed by the Festival Committee. This was followed in 1935 with a new, carnival-style event lasting three days on the square in front of the town hall. 1936 was an important year as this was when it was decided that the event should reach its full potential. The duration of the festival was increased to 6 days and the Biovès gardens (the top destination for tourists to Menton) became the focal point for the celebrations.
According to article 1 of the regulations for exhibitors, the main aim was to ‘show the public
all the fruit varieties in the citrus family which were grown in gardens in Menton and in the surrounding countryside, as well as the plants, flowers and exotic fruit which typified agricultural export and were a result of the gentle climate’. Beds filled with oranges and lemons were created, and a huge design in the shape of a clock was made by the town’s department for gardens. My grandfather was full of praise for this design because it was so unusual and heralded the kind of creations that were to come.
Lemons continued to inspire new ideas for festivals, which became increasingly impressive.
For example, in 1953, metal hoops covered in citrus fruit appeared along the paths – a precursor to the big things that were to come. Indeed,bigger and better! From now on, this became the watchword for designers who increasinglyfavoured the spectacular, with larger and larger structures in even greater numbers. In 1957, the first free-standing designs appeared. The city’s technical services produced wrought iron supports to conserve the fruit and to present it in the best way possible. In 1955, the festival had a theme for the first time – music! It should be noted that as a result of the Festival of Music, Menton became known a few years later as a great music-loving town. Soon, the themes were constantly changed, creating a new experience for every year! Countries, stories, cartoon characters… And this year chills with the Fantastic Worlds. Oh! A great idea! In 1959, elastic bands replaced the traditional piercing of fruit to fix it to the metal frames. This led to the fruit lasting much longer.
The Festival’s popularity increased so much each year that in the 1970s a footbridge
was built to link the two sections of the Biovès gardens. In 1978, the duration of the festival was increased to two weeks, and in 1983 it attracted a record crowd of 100,000 visitors.
In the mid 1990s, over 130 tonnes of fruit were needed to complete the increasingly spectacular designs. Over the past few years, the festival’s schedule has increased. Every two or
three days, there is an event within the main event. Enough vitamin C is therefore vital to
keep all the key figures and visitors going! There is always something happening – day and night! Since 1993, the name Fête du Citron® has been a registered trademark. Now you understand
why there is that little ® next to the name! Now that you know a little more about our festival, let your inner child and emotions run free, and enjoy the mild Menton winter climate, the spectacular fruit and beautiful colour!