A celebration in the making

  • 2005-07-13
  • By Lisa Belozarova
RIGA - Next year, Cesis celebrates its 800th anniversary and celebration organizers are in a frenzy to meet preparation deadlines for this important and historic event. For this small, eastern Latvian town of just over 18,000, next year's festivities are a big chance to tell the world its story and the pressure is on the local municipality to bring this medieval pearl to life.

Jolanta Borite, the manager of the festival, is candid about the hectic life behind the scenes and the steps being taken to put Cesis on the international stage.

Making Cesis known abroad is the core plan of both the municipality and festival managers. So serious is this goal that the Tourist Information Center has participated in four international travel fairs this year, distributing information about Cesis and arranging the marketing of this landmark anniversary in various international travel booklets. Making sure that this event be accessible to all tourists, a special informative leaflet about Cesis, to be distributed to travel bureaus across Europe, is being composed in both English and German.

While the organizers travel Europe spreading the word about Cesis, the publicity never ends at home. The rapid tourism growth that is taking place in Riga is mirrored in Cesis as well, where an intense cultural program will entertain guests throughout this summer. "Our main aim this summer is to tempt tourists to return next year," says Borite. And even armchair tourists are being catered to - soon virtual tourists will have a chance to hike various routes around Cesis online by means of a special tour - without ever having to leave the comfort of their home.

The 800th anniversary puts this small town on the UNESCO map as well - the 2006 festivities will be part of the UNESCO 2006 anniversary calendar. According to Borite, "this will provide an amazing opportunity for the local authorities to advertise the 800-year celebrations as a brand at the UNESCO summit in Paris next year." This is no small feat for the town and is sure to place an even larger legitimacy on the upcoming festivities. Clearly, the 800th jubilee is brilliant promotion for this cultural tourism destination.Like everything to do with heritage in Latvia, the financial aspect of planning a large-scale anniversary event in Cesis has been the biggest constraint. However, Cesis authorities have revealed that the 800th anniversary celebration and costs related to the staging of this event have been identified as a priority in Latvia's culture budget next year. "We are happy," says Borite with a hint of relief, "that the Ministries have shown interest, which guarantees the support of the Government and financial security."

As for local business contributions, according to the sponsoring and communication plan which was put together in 2003, Cesis authorities are open to having Latvian companies independently sponsor projects. On the international level, the Historic Travel Center of Vidzeme has managed to attract a number of European funds related to the development of regions and municipalities throughout Europe. The funding will contribute to the preservation of historical heritage in the town as well as street reconstruction, the creation of the city transport plans and the celebration itself.

As organizers continue to prepare the town's birthday party, it is clear that this is to become one of the biggest events of 2006 in Latvia. Cesis will be the place to be. "We say that the best of Latvia will be in Cesis during the festivities next year," laughs Borite. Organizers are single-minded in their effort to come up with a versatile, dynamic and compelling program. "The unifying artistic theme of the festival will be the re-creation of the old times," discloses Borite. Based around the theme "8 centuries on the streets of Cesis", guests will enjoy the spirit of this historical town across the entire eight hundred years. Different zones will be dedicated to particular centuries, re-created by means of period costumes, activities, food and music.

Of course, the Latvian trademark singing and dancing will certainly play a role here as well. Learning from the experience of Riga which celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2001, where singing and dancing activities proved to be the most popular with the crowd, Cesis already has a few similar events on the agenda. "We don't have to invent a lot of things from scratch. There are a lot of activities that people loved (in Riga), so why shouldn't we organize them as well, " explains Borite. Cesis will come alive next summer and if the enthusiasm of the Riga crowds count for anything, song and dance will play a huge role.

But before this all takes place next year, there is a whole summer and winter ahead of us. Cesis is already shining. Preparations for the big anniversary lend an air of festivity to this historic town and events are planned throughout 2005 in a countdown to the big event. This is already a town that knows how to throw a party 's and will do so on a regular basis leading up to the big day.

The 800th Anniversary celebrations will take place from

July 12th 's 16th 2006

For more information on this or other activities in Cesis,

visit: www.cesis.lv