A Citrus Celebration – The Menton Lemon Festival in France

The region of the French Riviera is not just known for its passion and contributions to the film industry. This region is also home to France’s famous Lemon Festival which is hosted by the small town of Menton. The celebration has been held every year, during the last week of February to early March, and organized by Menton’s Tourist Office since 1928. It has become the second largest festival in the region after the Carnival of Nice. Each year, the Menton Lemon Festival is organized based on a given theme. The festival has given tribute to Broadway’s musical comedies, Bollywood, Italian cinema, and music of the World.

The Menton Lemon

The town of Menton is 30kms from Nice. It is a town composed of steep mountain cliffs and terraces that slope down to greet the Mediterranean Sea. It is the last coastal town before entering the borders of Italy. With 300 days of full sunshine, it is the perfect place for growing and cultivating lemons. Local citrus growers preserved the tradition after production declined in the 1930s. At present, there are several varieties of Menton lemons available with over 5,000 lemon trees that produce 150 tons of lemons annually. The town supplies the surrounding areas along with lemon-based products like tarts, jams, soaps, candles, and perfume.

Procession of Golden Fruit Floats

The main event in the Menton Lemon Festival is the procession of fruit floats made entirely from lemons. The colossal floats, inspired by the yearly theme of the festival, are paraded in the beachfront of Promenade du Soleil and accompanied by hundreds of folk bands, dancers, majorettes, spectators, and confetti. No lemons or other citrus are wasted after the parade as the fruits are sold to locals and tourists for making jams, syrups, and other delicacies.

Gardens of Light

After the parade of floats by the beach promenade, the evening processions are greeted with a beautiful firework show by the bay. Festival attendees can now proceed to the Boives Garden. The venue is the host of the Gardens of Light show which fills the place with a combination of sound and light effects. The Garden is located beside the Palais de l’Europe casino where a large section of the grounds is walled off for the exhibition. Gigantic wire-framed structures and sculptures made from citrus are set for the admiration of spectators. Other than these, other exhibitions are held simultaneously beside each other such as the Craft and Orchid Fair where local flowers and traditional lemon products of the region are showcased.

Bands and Shows at Palais de l’Europe

Festivals are not complete without lively music to entertain the guests and set the atmosphere for fun and dancing. Local brass bands play for the festival during the day but for those for staying on until night-time can attend the evening shows and performances at the Palais de l’Europe. Tourists can also choose to go on a guided tour in Menton for a chance to visit the Palais Carnoles’ gardens which houses the most extensive collection of citrus fruit in Europe.