As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But for the town of Menton, France, there’s another option when faced with an excess of citrus: make sculptures.
For 83 years, Menton has brightened up the dark of winter with the Fête du Citron, or “Lemon Festival.” Every year during February and March, locals and tourists alike gather as 10-foot-tall sculptures made from citrus fruits of all shapes and sizes appear throughout the seaside town. Trees are adorned with orange and yellow skirts made from fruit, citrus-covered pharaohs float along parade routes and buildings made of tangerines, satsumas, and of course, lemons, decorate the city’s streets, Cara Giaimo writes for Atlas Obscura.
The Fête du Citron’s origins trace back to 1895, when a group of local hoteliers and business owners got together to brainstorm a way to attract tourists to Menton during the winter off-season. Taking inspiration from the nearby city of Nice, which has held parades celebrating Carnaval for centuries, Menton decided to make its own parade. The Menton parades proved popular with locals and tourists alike, but according to the Fête du Citron’s website it wasn’t until the 1930s that lemons got thrown into the mix.
Summer and fall may be the best time of year to harvest most fruits, but wintertime is citrus season, and back at the beginning of the 20th century, Menton was well-known for its lemons throughout Europe. Naturally, organizers began featuring their fruit in featured events during the festival, but in just a few years, the lemon-covered parade floats and sculptures had taken over, as the Fête du Citron’s website explains.
These days, the Fête du Citron has become one of the region’s most popular attractions, drawing as many as 240,000 visitors each year. For three weeks, the town is perfumed by thousands of tons of citrus fruit, with a favorite attraction being the citrus-covered sculpture garden in a small park at Menton’s center. To keep things fresh, the festival has a new theme each year: for 2016, the festival is celebrating the famous Italian movie studio, Cinecittà, which produced films by directors like Federico Fellini and Sergio Leone, David Sim writes for International Business Times UK Edition. Known as the “Hollywood on the Tiber,” Cinecittà is where classic pictures like Cleopatra, Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, and La Dolce Vita were filmed – all of which are honored this year at the Fête du Citron with recreations of their most famous scenes in citrus.
On top of the zesty floats, the festival features events like music, nighttime parades and fireworks. And at the end, it’s all topped off with a giant fruit sale, for the true citrus fans who want to savor one last bite of the festival after its close.