Autrefois Challans

Make the most of your summer in the Vendée to join in the fun at Autrefois Challans, incredible fairs just as they used to be.

Each year in summer, and for more than 30 years now, the association “Autrefois Challans” organises a traditional local fair held on 4 Thursdays and commonly known as the “Fair of Yesteryear”. As if time had stood still, the town turns the clock back to the beginning of the 20th century and 1,300 volunteers, in period dress, participate in all the activities. From 10.30am to 10pm, discover the trades of years gone by, the market and its farm animals, the firemen as they rush to the rescue, the parade of brides and grooms or the old-fashioned wedding breakfast known as the Noce Maraîchine. It’s also the perfect opportunity to discover the correct chronological order for a host of motorised vehicles and equipment, from that time until the modern-day, and the history of the local people of the Marais Breton, the “Maraîchins”. The youngest will adore an immersion in the daily life of the times, and can even take part in activities such as “The School of Yesteryear”, where they’ll learn to write with an old-fashioned quill pen, for example. For the not-so-young this is one back-to-school that’s likely to be epic! To add even more fun the association organises guessing games; not for the faint-hearted, you’ll have to guess the meaning of words in the “Maraîchin” dialect, the official language of the fair! So if, for example, you were asked what the word “ressiaïe” meant, what would you say? Drawn a blank? Afternoon, of course! During a previous fair, lucky visitors with the correct answer to the question, or to those asked on the other Thursdays, went away with prizes that turned many green with envy. Your total immersion in the period continues into the evening thanks to the folk groups and musical entertainment, the ideal opportunity to watch or be part of the traditional dances. And for the perfect end to the day, come and join the guests at a “Maraîchin” wedding, the traditional marshland nuptials. A celebratory meal that, just as in olden days, is punctuated with folklore, dances and songs from the 20th century.

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