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By Adrien G Gallo

Jerez de la Frontera knout throughout the world not only for its excellent wines, but also for its horses,celbrates its traditional and incomparable Spring Festival during the first two weeks of May. From the inception of the festival during the last century, the equestrian events have been an integral part of the festival; Jerez offerts all the ingredients for atrue Andalucian fiesta:magnificent horses,brave bulls,music,wine and beautiful women.

The horseriding events of the Festival are of an extremely high standard and Jerez is proud to be the only city in the world where,in the short space of two weeks, events are held that encompass all the competitions contained within the international Equestrian Federation and the Spanish Federation. Included in the programme of events are show-jumping, DRESSAGE, ALL-round competitions(all of them Olympic disciplines) as well as Spain's traditional equestrian feats such as carriage shows, exhibitions of horses trained to herd cattle, exhibitions of carriage horses, thoroughbreds etc.

Another aspect of the Jerez de la Frontera festival is the 180.000m2 fair ground with more than three hundred stalls illuminated by more than eighty thousand lights. During the days-and nights-of the Festival,the promenades and parks of the Paseo de las Palmera and Real de la Feria are a sea of colour:sulkies driven by matched horses with mains and tails plaited with gay ribbons;glittering harnesses and sombre liveries.The horsemen wear the traditional costume of short black jackets,black trousers with elegant cummerbunds and snow white cravats; the flounces of the girsl dresses froth over the horses' rumps in a cascade of colour as they move in rhythm to the horses gait.

The stalls of the fair are the heart and soul of the whole festival;the main meeting places,they appear practically impossible to pass without stopping for glass of sherry and a chat, to wath-or instigate-an impromptu flamenco dance as someone strums a guitar, the chords answered by the girls' castanets.Every stall has its own patrons and many are sponsored by clubs,recreational or cultural associations,companies and private entreprises,all contributing to the general ambience of bonhomie that is unreservedly extended to locals and tourists alike.

When it comes decorating the «casetas», the Jerezano is as meticulous in detail as the priest preparing his Holy Week procession, and these have long ago evolved from simple structures of metal and canvas to become genuine replicas of Andalucian courtyards,arched patios or designs reminiscent of the province's architecture.The flags, bunting and extravagant decorations bring an added note of colour and gay abandon to the fiesta.An additional incentive to perfect the decoration of the « caseta « is the competition organized by the Town Hall with substantial prizes for the winner and runners-up.

One of the most popular promenades within the fairground is the «Calle del Infieno», an area of approximatly 35.000m2 which holds all the well-loved,traditional attractions for both children and adults.

On mid-May at 0.30 the evening the Lord Mayor inaugurated the 2012 Festival; the 80.000 light bulbs blazed and the firework display was set a light at the touch of a torch,to the notes of the Andalucian anthem