Masked parades in Busseto have a genuine tradition that dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century; the most ancient document that testifies their existence certainly dating to as early as 1879, the year in which a “Carnival Association” was set up for the first time. In 1891, a “Società Pei Divertimenti” (Entertainment Association) organised masked parades for the Carnival of Busseto. The pompous poster reads as follows:
To the Peoples of Ongina, La Fossa, La Vallazza etc., etc. !
A marvellous event is going to take place between these historical walls at the next Carnival, in the face of which the Seven Wonders of the World, the Seven Years’ War, and the Seven Witches of Macbeth will be relegated to second place!
THE REAWAKENING OF THE CARNIVAL OF BUSSETO
Peoples of the Highlands and the Lowlands!
Don’t miss attending this brand new festival.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away:
instead the indolent will not help you, will cock a snoop at you!
If you cannot come by train, tram, carriage, don’t despair!
The Company, guardian of the general welfare, places at your disposal Saint Francis’ horse.
With this handy, safe, and hygienic means,
everyone will be envious to attend the unfurling of the following
What follows, of course, is the rich programme of celebrations.
From then on, year after year, the carnival event of Busseto was to develop and gain substance, among competing allegorical and festive floats.
The glorious era of the masked parades in Busseto started in 1937, with a prize-winning battle against the floats from the nearby town of Fidenza, equally eager to bring as many people as possible to “their” parade.
Victory belonged to the more combative town… guess which?
With the war and the postwar period, also because of domestic difficulties, for ten years it was not possible to organize masked parades.
The tradition resumed with the carnival of 1950, which was enormously successful, attracting people from Parma, Fidenza and Cremona.
The preparation of the floats takes place many months before Carnival and very often costs are borne by members of the “Pro Busseto”. The floats too, over the years, just get better and better, equipping themselves with ever more complex and varied moving gargoyles of papier-mâché, that can easily compete with those of Viareggio, and which are constantly growing in size.
The seventies began in a dramatic way: in 1971, a fire burned down the sheds a week before the Carnival and the Committee found itself in difficulty; in addition to this was a protest by the float personnel, up till then little regarded at an organizational level, but who were finally able to have more say in the matter that year.
But nothing daunts the people from Busseto, the reconstruction of buildings after the fire was extremely fast. Ready, steady, go! And they’re off again!
The parades are enriched by the Town Band and its “mascots”: there are many companies that participate in the parade with their “creations” of papier-mâché and otherwise: “Tasche Rotte”, “Sempre Avanti”, “Calipso”, “I Nobili”, “La Notturna” and so on… There is also a fare share of wacky characters, such as Talon Gorreri, better known as the “King of the Noses” from Soragna, the most faithful of the “special issues” of Busseto’s parade.
In 1998, a group of Carnival “die-hards” enthusiastically decided to revive the event which had been suspended for a few years: thus was born the Associazione Amici della Cartapesta (Association of Friends of Papier-mâché) in Busseto.
Give thanks to them: they are the ones who, even today, will bring you emotions, making the Carnival more special with every year that passes, with their inventions that are always different, spectacular, and safe fun for everyone, young and old alike.
Among a thousand difficulties, first and foremost the instability of the weather (one year, there was even a whirlwind!), the “die-hards” never give up, to the joy of local inhabitants, but also and especially of the visitors, who on Carnival Sunday invariably invade the streets of the town totally immersed in a unique setting of confetti and papier-mâché.