The recent Gentse Feesten (Ghent Festival) may have been marred by rain and cloudy weather, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the one million people who attended over ten days. Since the first festival in 1843, the Gentse Feesten has stayed true to its roots ensuring that entrance is free and that there is something for everyone to enjoy. The festival features huge beer tents, music on ten of the city’s squares, street performers, children’s events and hundreds of different activities to choose from. Our own Master Brewer, Jef Versele, has had a tent on one of the squares for the last ten years and is one of the only local brewers to attend the festival. Not only does Jef play host, he also helps to organise the entertainment for ‘his’ square. We caught up with Jef to get some of his insights on this year’s festival… What was your highlight of the 2012 festival? When it was over! No, I love the festival, it is like a break for me. I take leave from the brewery to host our tent and meet the people. What do you do in the tent all day? I’m behind the bar drafting beer! If I stand out front, then people come to chat and I will end up giving away far too much free beer. What makes your tent special? Our beer! We only sell our own beers and are seeing an increase in the popularity of strong beer. Overall, we probably sell about 90% speciality beer and about 10% lager beer. And we serve our beers authentically. You must enjoy a Belgian beer in the right glass. A lot of the beer tents at the festival use plastic – we use glass (luckily, our customers are well-behaved). But we did ‘lose’ one whole palette of glassware… I think they left as souvenirs! What is the biggest challenge of the festival? We also organise the music and entertainment for the square that our tent is on. Even though the festival is free, people expect high quality entertainment - that is one of the reasons that the festival is so successful. So finding good groups to perform can be tricky. I get lots of recommendations from friends and customers and try to come up with a winning line-up that can play night after night. What would you change about the festival? The weather this year! But other than that, nothing. Why mess with a winning formula? What advice would you give anyone planning to attend the festival next year? If you can, come around the weekend of the 21st of July. This is a national holiday in Belgium – it is our day of independence. There is a fireworks display in the evening and a lovely atmosphere. Oh, and bring your wallet! Finally, what makes the Ghent Festival so special? It is a unique and different way to discover the city of Ghent. If you are planning on visiting Ghent for the 2013 festival, try and stay until the last day (always a Monday), which is known as ‘de dag van de lege portemonnees’ (the day of the empty wallets). Assuming that all the tourists have spent all their money and left, this is the day that the locals come out and enjoy the final festivities. Visit the Gentse Feesten website to find out more and start planning your trip. Have you been to the Ghent Festival? Please share your tips and thoughts in the comment section below. Images from www.gentsefeesten.be.