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Festivals and entertaining events abound from Compiègne to Dunkerque. From Carnaval in February and March, to the festive Christmas markets in December, there are events to take in throughout the year. This is the “Land of the Giants”, where enormous figures representing local tradespeople, such as fishermen and farmers, are found at parades and festivals. Major sports events, like the prestigious and gruelling Paris-Roubaix cycling race, pro-am golf tournaments on the Cote de Opal, and horseracing at the racecourse at Chantilly give outdoor enthusiasts things to see in the warmer months.
Held in April every year, the Festival of Birds and Nature provides over a week of activities for bird enthusiasts. Timed to make the most of bird watching opportunities in the Somme Bay, visitors can also participate in walks, workshops, films (usually in French), exhibitions and lessons.
The Joan of Arc Festival, an annual festival which takes place in Compiègne, is a re-enactment of Joan of Arc's last visit to the town before she was captured on 23 May 1430. A young local woman plays Joan and attends mass, as Joan would have done. There is a procession through the town and Joan is finally escorted to the bridge where she was captured and went to meet her tragic fate.
Appropriately, the “Town of Roses” plays host to this annual one-day Rose Festival. The festival is held in June every year in the lovely medieval town of Gerberoy, classed among the most beautiful towns in France (Plus Beaux Villages de France). Roses proliferate in Gerberoy on the balconies, in the gardens and in special venues around the town. During the festival there are stalls in the street, and the entertainment, which goes on all day and into the evening, includes folk dancing and singing.
The three-day Festival of the Jester is held in June every year in Saint-Quentin. Inspired by artistic representations of jesters found on the façade of and in the town hall, the festival includes music, dancing, parades and other entertainment. The main focus however is on the giant effigies of Herbert and his wife Eléanor.
In September every year cheese lovers gather in La Capelle for this cheese fair featuring thousands of different cheeses, yoghurts and dairy products. Visitors can sample the cheeses and cheese makers compete for various honours and prizes.
One of the largest Carnival celebrations in the region, Dunkerque has a party atmosphere for well over a month, during February. Dances, concerts, fancy-dress parties and many more activities, including the famous “fish slapping” are found on the calendar.
The annual Festival of European Film is held in April in Lille, Tourcoing and Roubaix and is becoming a major event in the French film industry. Exhibitors from throughout the world compete to win Best Film, Best Director and other awards.
This major cycling race is considered by most cycling fans to be one of the most prestigious professional cycling races in the world. Professional cyclists consider it to be among the most difficult of the one-day Classics. Also called l'Enfer du Nord ("Hell of the North"), it holds a respected place on the international professional cycling calendar due to the extremely difficult and dangerous terrain (including cobblestones) over which the riders must race, as well as the frequent harsh weather. The race takes place each year in April, starting in Paris or the immediate area, and finishing in Roubaix.
All eyes will be on the sky for the International Kite Festival in Berck-sur-Mer. Participants from all over the world come to compete, buy and sell, or just to fly their kites. Hundreds of thousands of spectators descend on Berck-sur-Mer for two weeks of aerial performances, food, entertainment, a market, and expert advice on flying kites. This popular festival is usually held in April.
The largest event in the regional LGBT calendar, the Lesbian and Gay Pride Lille festival includes booths, floats, bands and other entertainment. A fun and informative day for the LGBT community, all are welcome to join in the day, which usually takes place in June.
Douai, the Cité des Géants (City of Giants), hosts the popular annual Festival of the Giants for three days each July. During the festival, which dates back to the 16th century, the 6-metre tall “giants” Monsieur and Madame Gayant (“giant’’ in the Picard dialect) are joined by their children, Jacquot, Fillon and Binbin. Other effigies join the family, sometimes with marriages between the enormous figures. The giants are included on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
One of the largest second-hand goods markets in Europe, the Lille Braderie is an opportunity to buy used clothing, furniture, household goods, toys, jewellery as well as antiques and collectibles. The braderie takes place over the first weekend each September. For two days the streets of Lille fill with vendors, food and entertainment for the thousands of visitors who descend on the city for this annual tradition.
This annual car rally, which is organized by the Le Touquet Auto Club, brings rallying enthusiasts to the Le Touquet-Paris-Plage coast for three days of challenging racing in March.