By Ruth Ellen Gruber
Extraordinary. I realize I haven't posted here for more than a month! It's not for lack of wanting to... just for lack of time. Or maybe a surfeit of ... laziness perhaps? Mental laziness at any rate, as I feel as if I've been running around, very busy, doing many other things...
Right now I'm in the middle of a working trip that has taken me so far to Spain, Slovakia, Austria and now Hungary (Budapest) -- but for other matters, not the imaginary wild west... I still have a few stops to make -- but, I'm trying to figure out if I can manage to hit the Valsassina country festival in northern Italy: it's the first edition of it, apparently, and it's one of the few such festivals in Italy at all. But it's rather out of the way for me -- up near Lecco, in the mountains above Lake Como north of Milan...
I've been to just one other western festival in Italy -- the Western Games that used to be held near Rome -- and I'm eager to see the northern Italian take. There's another country festival in Italy June 29 -- at Voghera, where there is also a wild west theme park. (But I'll be in Czech Republic so will miss it.)
According to the information on the web site http://www.countrymusicnetwork.it/ the festival was "strongly desired and promoted" by the Volonteers of the local parish of St. Alessandro di Barzio and suported by the "friends of the horse" association in the Valsassina.
The object is "the diffusion of American Country culture in a festival of colors, emotions and traditions to relive the scenes and breathe the hottest atmospheres of the villages of the Far West."
There is a charitable aspect to the festival, which is also somewhat rare in the scene -- all proceeds are to go to a new parish elementary school.
As I have observed, most -- or at least much -- of the imaginary wild west scene in Italy centers on horses (and cowboy action shooting) though I understand there is also a line-dancing scene in the north. There are scattered bluegrass bands and musicians, too. (The info on the Valsassina Festival says that every night of the event there will be live music and "the legendary LINE DANCE" with instruction.)
It looks like country music may be catching on, though, to judge from the schedule of the Silverado country band, which is playing at both Voghera and Valsassina -- as well as a lot of other gigs and little country fests, across northern Italy.