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Lei Lei – the special carnival greeting from Villach, the craziest carnival city in Austria! The festivities are going on for a while, Villachs jesters have their say from the 11th of November. The highlight of the Villach Fasching (carnival) is on carnival Saturday when the whole city dresses up in costumes and you can hear the shouts of "Fasching in Villach, Villach im Fasching!" echoing through the streets.
Villach Fasching (carnival) was first mentioned in 1867. From 1910, the Villach Bauerngman (a farmer’s charitable organisation) organised an annual Farmers’ Ball, the earnings were used for charitable pusposes only. In 1955 the idea arose to change the Farmers’ Ball into a giant carnival for Villach. Within three years, over 50 restaurants and cafes from the historic town centre participated in the carnival. The first variety stage show was performed in the Arbeiterkammer hall in 1961. In 1964, a Carnival Guild was formed from the Bauerngman. From 1972 on, the performances have taken place in the Congress Center Villach and in 2001 the Carnival Guild built special premises for their organisation.
Carnival Variety Show
In spring, (months before the carnival season starts), the course for the new carnival season is set: ideas are gathered, new performers selected, texts written and the parts given out. From September, the rehearsals start in earnest. The dancing guards study their choreography, the Carnival Court Musicians (a 16-member big band) studys their new pieces, the two choirs work on their performances, the Villach gymnastics club – for decades a pig part of the show – works on new routines and the actors rehearse their lines.
Even the members who do not perform on the stage are kept busy. The technical equipment needs to be checked and serviced, new technicians are being trained up. The costumes need to be selected and constructed, the props and the stage sets produced. The make-up artists work hard to get the actors to look like the celebrities they are satirizing. From Christmas, workers start at the Congress Centre Villach to build the stage and to program and install the technical equipment – all done by our specially trained members. At Epiphany everything is ready: the first performance is a dress rehearsal in front of family members of the Carnival Guild.
Depending on the length of the carnival season, our 4-hour programme is performed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday up to one week before Carnival Saturday. That’s between twelve and nineteen performances. 10,000 to 16,000 spectators get to see a live show every year and since 1963, Austrian Television has shown a two-hour compilation programme during prime-time television. In 2012 alone, the viewing numbers increased by 53,000 viewers.
Carnival Prince and Princess
Every year, the media focuses on the new royal carnivalcouple, who will rule the carnival world during the next season. The introduction of the princely pair is a hugely popular event which takes place on the Saturday closest to the 11th of November. The press attends this event on the Hauptplatz, the main square, of Villach as well. To this point, the identity of the protagonists is kept secret and only the guild chancellor, who chooses the couple, knows who will be holding the fool’s sceptre in the next carnival season.
Our little jesters too get their money’s worth at Villacher Fasching. In 1966, the Carnival Guild created a Children’s Carnival Variety Show! 180 children participate in the annual 2-hour programme – with music, dance, skits and even a childrens guard. There are of course also a princely pair and a children’s chancellor. For years now, Austrian Television broadcasts a compilation of the children’s show.
A big part of the carnival in Villach is the carnivalsaturday, which is also organised by the Villach Carnival Guild. It forms the high point of foolish and humorous behaviour in our city. Villach itself becomes a fool’s stage. In the shops and restaurants, employees wear masks and music groups create a great atmosphere in the streets from early in the morning. Every year there is an extensive children’s programme to give children a lasting impression of this day.
Carnival Saturday is on February 18th 2023. The dates of the shows for 2023 are listed here.
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