First, and foremost, I need to say a huge thank you to my incredible wife who helped me with all of the work this weekend. There is no way that I could have captured the variety of images without her assistance, energy and support. I am a very lucky man.
For those who are new to Bulgaria, Beglika Fest is an outdoor festival that caters to both young and old. It is an outdoor festival that stretches over the course of an entire weekend. Participants are encouraged to camp in nearby campgrounds to allow easy access to the festival. During the course of the weekend a variety of workshops ranging from martial arts to laughing classes are offered on a daily basis. During the evening a main stage opens to allow international bands to showcase their musical talent. For more information about the festival, click here.
Beglika Fest 2011 was a hands down, outright, over-the-top success. This being my first trip to the festival, I can say that I was curious, if not a little anxious, as to what the weekend might entail. Since my Bulgarian is quite weak, I thought that speaking only English would be a huge disadvantage. This couldn't have been further from the truth. I could never have imagined that I would meet such friendly, outgoing and generous people. From the early morning wake ups in the martial arts camp to the afternoon comedy shows and well into the night with the live music and fire dancing displays, I have never met such a warm and friendly group of people. They welcomed Elise and me with open arms and bent over backwards to help us feel comfortable. My second huge thank you goes out to them. Thank you for creating the atmosphere that you created ... you know who you are.
Below you will find some images with some descriptions of the people in them. I hope that the information helps you to gain a deeper understanding of the atmosphere of the festival and the people that live in Bulgaria. Expats and Bulgarians alike, the people living in Bulgaria make it what it is today. Please enjoy the images and information.
Note: for all of the wonderful people that I met at the festival, please follow my Flickr stream to see more pictures of the festival. Please feel free to download and use any of the images that you see there. To help speed up the upload time, I have made the images slightly smaller. If you would like larger images with better resolution, please get in contact with me and I can give you better quality file. You can look me up on Facebook under Damon Rickett.
The Aerial Elastic
This is an image of one of the more popular events at the festival. I am unsure as to the material used for the rope, but from what I observed, this workshop focused on balance and acrobatics. People of all ages took turns walking across the thick, elastic material you see at the bottom of the image. Some of the more advanced participants and workshop instructors displayed their aerial abilities by launching themselves well above the ground and landing back on the balancing line. I unfortunately captured this image just before I left and did not get a chance to find out the young man's name in the photo. If he is out there and sees this image, please get in contact with me so that I can include your information in this post.
As many of us know, bees are equally important as the are endangered. With that in mind, it would be impossible to take a relaxing summer drive in Bulgaria and not come across a bee farm producing honey. What makes this honey so special is that it is produced using an all natural process. No pesticides are used in the raising of these bees and the honey is pressed without the use of metal objects to help preserve the taste. Also, an herbal tea is used to remedy many of the infections that plague western bee farms. In a time where grocery store items are plastered with the misleading "organic" label, this quiet little bee farm seems to be doing everything just right. I have to admit, I am not a honey connoisseur, but even I could taste the difference between this honey and the grocery store bought variety. Oh, and one other little secret to add, the honey is so good that she often dips into her own product. As we were setting up for this shot, she ate almost a whole bowl! You can contact these environmentally friendly honey producers at 0885583269 or http://sheserpent.wordpress.com/. Oh, did I mention that they make their own hand made clothes as well?
More Photos: HERE
A Little Something For Everyone
Beglika Fest is nothing if it is not diverse. The people attending range from the youngest of infants to the oldest of adults. This festival has something for everyone. Cumbo Circus is a comedy group that draws an audience for both children and adults. Although mostly children occupy the first few rows, the older attendees are equally enthralled by the magic, comedy and humor of Cumbo Circus' productions. When I was invited to shoot this event, I had no idea that I was to be pulled up on stage as an on stage volunteer. I can say from a first hand vantage point that these shows are a delight to watch and even more fun to participate in. If Cumbo Circus is ever in your neighborhood, don't miss them ... even if you don't have kids. Their web address is www.cumbo.org.
Our Kind and Generous Neighbors
Upon stumbling into the camp late Friday afternoon, we arrived to see that most of the tenting locations at Beglika Fest were taken. We quietly set up our tent next to another group of tents near a glad of sheltered trees. The group of tents turned out to belong to the martial arts performers and Kami, the gentleman that you see in the photo above. Kami (short for Kamram) is an Iranian refugee that is living in Bulgaria. He spends his days teaching martial arts to a group of young Bulgarian enthusiasts in Sofia. His students range from PhD engineering students to fine arts majors at Sofia University. Kami and his group gave regular martial arts displays throughout the weekend that highlighted their expertise in their area. After getting to know Kami spending a few breakfasts and afternoons with Kami and his group, I was personally able to observe his calm demeanor with his students and his zen-like approach to his practice. Both Elise and I were lucky to have picked the group of tents that we did. You can contact Kami at the following website www.thepathofkungfu.org