Aalborg Carnival: biggest in Northern Europe

CNC report from Aalborg
Added On May 31, 2013

Aalborg Carnival is the annual cultural event in the city of Aalborg, the fourth largest city in Denmark.

It is the biggest carnival in northern Europe.

Around 50,000 people dressed out gathering in the Danish Town Aalborg to celebrate this Carnival last Saturday, attracting over 100,000 visitors from around the world.

"The street parades of Aalborg Carnival start at different places around the city like here in Norre Sundby. In a moment the king of the carnival 2013 will be crowned by the man who founded the carnival more than thirty years ago."

2013 Aalborg Carnival started with fanfares.The Carnival Parade from three different starting points in the town, moved its way through the streets of Aalborg. Over 50,000 people meet close to the park area.

Started in 1983, the Aalborg Carnival has grown ever since. It stands for a week and has three main carnival events,including The Grand Parade, Battle of Carnival Bands and Children's Carnival.

The carnival week is for everyone - both professional, and amateur carnival groups. Everybody could act on his or her instincts, create their own costume and join the celebration of life.

"Carnival is the best day of the year. We have a lot of fun and we are just enjoying it."
Q: How many times have you been to the carnival?
Four years.
Q: How many of your friends are here also?
"This year I have four of my friends with me also dressed out as poca huntas."
Q: Why did you choose that?
"We chose this theme because we like the merge in our hair and because we think we look sexy."

The Aalborg Carnival has two parts. One is the public street parade where people can dress in whatever costume they like to express themselves -- or they can choose to follow the theme of the year which was "Angels and Demons" in 2013.

Every year, Aalborg Carnival presents a different theme, which lays down the guidelines for the carnival in question and opens up for a broad variety of costumes. The theme serve as a source of inspiration for the participants, but it not a demand, since all the costumes are welcome.

Traditionally, Aalborg people celebrate fantasy and the coming of the spring through carnival traditions, in which the city transforms into a gigantic theater with the citizens as actors, the street as the stage and the body a sculpture.

"I think that all humans need to have some kind of symbolic events where you can celebrate like this carnival where we celebrate spring and the transformation that we are celebrating. We need to have these kinds of events. And the Aalborg Carnival is a major event where everybody is gathering once a year and celebrate that spring is coming."

The crowned king of The Aalborg Carnival highlights the event. Every year a remarkable person from the city is honored the King of the Carnival.

This year, popular TV anchor Mogens Joergensen was honored the 24th king of the Aslborg Carnival.

A week before the public parades, samba battles and grand displays of professional samba groups from all over the world were held.

This year the organizers had to downgrade this part of the carnival since the big foreign and professional groups take a lot of space. And they planned to change the concept of the international samba groups.

"The great samba groups, the fantastic brilliant large scale Caribbean costumes needs more space. As in Rio where they have a big samba dome we want to make a new platform for the international groups where they can express themselves even more than they have done before."

"It is not only in the Kildeparken or in the street parades that people are celebrating the carnival. It is all over town. People come from different places all over Denmark and even from abroad."

"Of course there are a lot of people from Aalborg areas and from the whole of Denmark who are coming to this carnival. But there are also coming people from Sweden, Australia, Germany, and Italy, actually from all over the world - but the core of the carnival is coming from Denmark just like it is in all other carnivals around the world where the core of the participants is coming from the area because a carnival is basically a local event. A huge celebration for the people in the area where they live, and that's why we want to travel to these kind of events because we want to experience how people are celebrating in the exact area where they live."

People from all around the city love joining together and sharing good times through carnival.

"I deal with all the people who come to the carnival in the day before and during the carnival. And I see people are very excited,they are very enthusiastic and dressed up and of course you know they get excited and a little bit drunk I have to say as you can probably see. Of course it is a little sad to be working during this most festivities day of the year, but it is also quite fun to see things from the outside and have an outsider's view of the whole day."

This year, the carnival has not been affected by the global financial crisis. However, it still has economic problems since the Aalborg Carnival organizers are actually a rather small group for such a huge event.

Only five members in the group are full-time employed. They have to make  different arrangements for each year's carnival, from security issues, hiring music bands to organize people to perform in the big party.

"It was a very huge success from the very start. But success grows and actually our success is so great now that we are having trouble following it, because it demands a lot of security, it demands a lot of toilets and facilities for the people and a lot of dirt is produced throughout a festival like this. So it is really hard for a small organization to do this on voluntary basis and still keep finding the finances as the arrangement is growing."

Luckily, a great number of voluntary offer helps every year.

"We get a lot volunteers from different kind of sport clubs. Actually the carnival organization on the production period consists of actually around 2000 people. Not only five people. But we orchestrate a cluster organization where you have people working with security. You have people working with first aid. You have people working with selling things in the stores. 2000 people are working with a lot of different tasks."

Since the first carnival in 1983, the Carnival Association was established as a grass-root organization. while the carnival parade consisted of around 10,000 participants.

The budget for the Aalborg Carnival is around 1.2 million US dollars per year. Only 5 percent is covered by the municipality, the rest is coming solely from the participants paying to get into the party at Kildeparken.

"Of course the economic crisis makes it difficult with all the suppliers and so on who have to have money up front and that kind of things, but the economic crisis for the Aalborg Carnival is that it is growing in an enormous speed, so the economic model we have had so far does not work. Therefor we are making a new model to meet the economic claims coming from the fact that the carnival is growing so much."

To be able to invite foreign groups to the coming year's carnival and to overcome the actual economic problems, the carnival organizers have made a deal with the restaurant and bars like those in the notorious Jomfru Ane Street to contribute economically to the carnival in the future.

"The old economic model was based on that everybody who joined the carnival went into a specific carnival area. That is no longer the case. Two third of the total number of participants can't be in that area any longer (Kildeparken), because the carnival has grown too big. That means that only one third of the participants in the carnival are actually paying for it. That doesn't work and that's why we have economic problems for the past two years and that's why we have made a new model where we work with all the restaurants in the town that earns a lot of money from the carnival. they are taking part in the carnival now and taking an economically risk in the carnival."

The party in Kildeparken goes until late Saturday night, with dancing, drinking beers and having a lot of fun together with friends. More than 20,000 had paid to get in advance buying the carnival wristband while others paid at the entrance.

"Next year we will see a carnival that has these creative fantastic public parades but also parades with international carnival groups that will work great in that space. It could be Guggenheim music band from Austria where people playing on horns and we will see the international part of the carnival that we have started a week before the public carnival grow even more."

Carnival is about expressing yourself in a personal way and enjoying being together with others doing the same in their way.

Aalborg Carnival is Northern Europe's biggest and considered among the top ten carnivals in the world. For the man who started it all it creates a very special feeling to see the young people dancing and having lots of fun.

"It makes my heart glow. Every time I see all these young people coming out from the streets and they are dressed up, having a lot of fun, having made their own thoughts about what they wanted to express today, a lot of creativity and it's a great pleasure."