It has become a tradition, handed down from generation to generation; it has become a testimony to values that have defied time, confirming the human qualities and attachment to their land of the people of Borgomanero.
After so many years, it can be said that the main theme of the ‘September’ event in our town has always been the celebration of the grape harvest and its products, even if, following the chronicle and history, the ‘floats’ have been a way of living Italian and international current events.
Even politicians have passed through the mockery of the Sagra floats. Fashion, as well as traditions, have been the target and topic to motivate and inspire the manufacturers. The Ministry of Agriculture suggested a grape harvest festival to the ‘Dopolavori Comunali’ (Municipal recreational organizations) in 1930, at the dawn of Fascism, which had been in power since 1922. The aim was to glorify the hard work of wine-growers and enhance the value of their product.
According to history, the first real ‘Grape Festival’ took place in September 1936 and had no precedent whatsoever. This is what Gianni Colombo writes in his ‘History of Borgomanero’, although the author does not deny the existence of a precedent, which he sets aside by arguing that … ‘it was not really possible to mistake for a ‘grape festival’ that cart, that came down from Santa Cristina with two pack baskets and half a dozen beautiful grape pickers in 1935’.
The ‘first edition’ was extremely successful, with the participation of the whole of Borgomanero and many neighbouring towns, which also had renowned vineyards. A single stall selling Bacchus’ nectar was set up in Piazza Garibaldi by the ‘Dopolavoro’ of Boca. More than 12 grape harvest floats took part in the parade, as well as an equal number of marching bands, all linked to the theme of the grape harvest. In other words, they were all celebrating grapes and wine.
The second edition of the festival was held the following year, in 1937. The ‘regime’ wanted a poster advertising the ‘8th Grape Festival’, implying that others had been organised in previous years. Nothing could be further from the truth. The 3rd Grape Festival was celebrated the following year, in 1938. It is remembered for the great challenge in the competition for the most beautiful ‘Symbolic Harvest Float’ between Caffè Principe and Caffè Commercio. The owners and all the regular customers were taxed to pay for the decoration of these floats. The event was a great success and the jury could only award the two floats equal winners.
In 1939, the first signs of the Second World War and the many calls to arms prevented the ‘Committee’ from even starting the fourth edition of the ‘Grape Festival’. The tradition was only restored in September 1952, seven years since the end of the war.
In the years between 1960 and 1970, the ‘first prizes’ were awarded mainly to knight Francesco Barbaglia, known as ‘Faruk’, a nickname he was given for bringing a float inspired by the deposed king of Egypt to the festival. The ‘Rassegna Economica novarese’ (Economic Review of Novara) was a great novelty introduced in the already rich programme of the festival celebrations in 1967.
This ‘market exhibition’ of the best products of industry, handicrafts and trade continued until 1971, when the fifth and last edition was held. In the following years, the festival continued to be staged with varying degrees of success under the guidance of the relevant committees and with the patronage of the Municipal Administration. With regard to the presidents who succeeded one another over the years, the constant and lasting presence of Commendator Luigi Giromini is recalled. Others were equally great, but it is difficult to mention them all without forgetting anyone.
In 1991 and 1992, the ‘night parade of floats’ was introduced at 9 p.m. on the Saturday before the last day of the festival. It was a not real failure, but in 1993 the parade took place again on Sunday afternoon.