Local festivals alter people’s lives

Folk Games Festival in Shkoder, Albania (Photo: courtesy of the Door)

Local celebrations are a series of common themed events that are organized at periodic intervals. Local festivals, initiated and managed by local organizers, are deeply embedded in the culture of a community and as a result they create and recreate their stories, generating values and habits in that community. Well-planned festivals and events offer a myriad of economic and social benefits. The tourism of festivals and events is considered one of the fastest growing forms of tourism, becoming popular in rural areas as a means to regenerate local economies. However, whereas the economic benefits of local festivals are more easily measured, the social benefits are less tangible and in fact more important, since they affect every aspect of a community life.

A particularly significant social benefit of these local festivals is the creation of strong relationships and social interaction in a community, which generally occurs during the planning phase. These benefits last, as people bring their connections and network, collective knowledge and skills to improve a community life. Most of the hundreds of forms collected to compile this Calendar ascertain the festivals as an opportunity for socialization among the communities isolated in deep northern alpine regions, where the territory of Shkodra county extends. A distinctive case is that of Logu i Bjeshkëve, which is one of the most authentic and unique festivals that also takes place in the depths of the Albanian Alps, at Qafë Predelec, Kelmend. The organizers of this festival state that the event brought together no more than 5 girls when it was revived from traditional celebrations 20 years ago, but that number has multiplied in the years to come. The same phenomenon is also true for probable audience that travels dozens, hundreds and even thousands of kilometres, including the nearby villages in Malesi e Madhe, Albania, and even across the Atlantic, to attend this festival.

Local festivals also have the ability to absorb financial resources and investments in the communities where these events take place, providing economic benefits that contribute to a sustainable development of the area. They attract visitors, which stimulates the growth of tourism and boosting of businesses, which simultaneously contributes to increasing job opportunities and captivating visitors to a regional, national and international levels. All of these intertwined links consequently entice attention and promote destinations, tourist attraction and infrastructure. To a certain level, each local celebration has this ability, but what embodies them to greater extent are events such as the Puka Agricultural Products Fair, the Nationwide Festival of the Little Folk Instrumentalists, International Day of Jazz Music in Shkodra. Even so, there is another festival particularly in Shkodra based on a nearly 60-year tradition — the Nationwide Children’s Song Festival — is arguably the most important cultural event in the whole region.

Slightly more specific are some activities, such as the annual Photo Exhibition “Shkodra — my family, my culture, my history’, Ekrani i Artit and others in Shkodra, which are truly challenging ventures aiming at identifying and enhancing individual and collective cultural capacities through confronting local audiences with contemporary artistic approaches and developments.

Local holidays, festivals and events have impacts that go far beyond what can be economically measured. They contribute to the quality of life in communities, strengthen their relationships and understanding, offer unique activities and events, raising awareness of different cultures and identities, and acting as a source of self-confidence and pride for these communities. They create models of success, collaboration and partnership. The parties involved in the organization highlight the specific expertise and skills of community members, promoting the transmission of knowledge to other communities and the further development of the existing human resources. Promoting and building community self-esteem and pride is essential to the development of any community. Locals with confidence and pride in the values they convey are more likely to speak positively about their environment to others, as well as to voluntarily engage in activities that support the common good. In this context, a model of success is the Festival of Kaçimak in Shkrel, which was first organized by VIS Albania to bring to attention the traditional cooking in a danger of being faded and lost through time. Currently, this celebration has been taken over by the local community itself, which is expanding this tradition along with the parish.

Current traditions, even those of the early centuries, which meanwhile account for about 35% of the holidays included in this Calendar are the religious celebrations. However, as in a particular case as Saint Nicholas, the initiative of Vau Dejes municipality to draw this celebration from the family environment and dissolve it within the community should be applauded, as well as giving it an identity associated with the relevant symbolism. Inspired by this approach, a significant part of the celebration and other (not just religious) events need to create, emphasize and diversify. The permanent threat of globalization for the homogeneity and even the disappearance of particular cultures should also alert local communities to intensify efforts to strengthen the identity of their respective territories. The main task is for public institutions, which have the power to guide and offer better opportunities for communities and community organizations even in terms of local festivals and events.

However, whatever the holidays, traditional, religious, sports or cultural all have one thing in common: improving the quality of life for communities.

Sustainable Urban Planning Organization