It’s Thursday morning which means that we’re down to the final day of the Gyeongju Liquor & Ddeok Festival (경주술과떡잔치) in Hwangseong Park. Unfortunately I missed the Festival’s kickoff Saturday, though I hear it was packed with people and the weather was gorgeous. By the time I got down there on Monday, this week-long bout of dreary weather had already set in.
That said, there seemed to be a fair bit happening when I got down there and the rain hadn’t dampened anyone’s spirits. In fact, I got there just in time for the “Liquor Vehicle and Queen Seondeok Parade,” which I guess was riding the wave of hype around last year’s smash historical drama “Queen Seondeok” (선덕여왕). The parade consisted of a Queen Seondeok look-alike atop a big float shaped like a booze bottle, flanked on either side by winners of the “Queen Seondeok Beauty Contest”, which slowly drove down the block and back. Thankfully they thought to spice up the parade a bit by adding guys in Shilla soldier outfits who’d periodically break out into martial arts moves. A bit chintzy? Sure. But what do you really expect at a liquor and rice cake festival?
After the parade, I took a gander around the vendor tents hawking beautifully arranged, multicolored hunks of Ddeok (떡), or Korean “rice cake.” Par for the course, there was a bespectacled fellow in traditional dress giving demo on how ddeok was made back in the day: pounded out over hours with a giant wooden mallet.
Of course the busiest spot at the festival was Sul Nara (술나라), or literally “Liquor Country,” where traditional Korean Liquor vendors were giving away the ever popular free samples. Being a Monday afternoon, I chose not to imbibe. Though, I did notice they had quite a variety of local Gyeongbuk brews to sample, like the Yang Yang Mushroom Wine (앙앙송이주) and Pohang Bulloju (포항부로주).
In the tent behind “Liquor Country” there was the requisite display of how alcohol was brewed traditionally in Korea. Alas, as usual, it was all in Korean. However, they did have a fascinating bilingual display of the drinking and dietary habits of all of Korea’s presidents. Who would have guessed that Jeon Du-hwan had a taste for whiskey or that Kim Dae-jung enjoyed mushroom casserole?
I was distracted from my presidential musing by the unmistakable sounds of the kkwaenggwari (꽹과리) and janggu (장 구). Sure enough, there was a pungmul (풍물) drumming troupe doing their daily performance by the stadium. As the drummers were sporting traditional sangmo (상모), or a hat with long ribbons, I caught them doing what can best be describe as the “Korean Traditional Swirly Hat Dance.” (I’m sure there’s got to be a more dignified name for it, but I can’t seem to find it.) As I was packing my trusty zoom lens, I got some great action shots of the dancers.
I’ll be heading back tonight for the Festival’s Closing Ceremony and grand finale (if it’s not pouring down rain). According to schedule there should be traditional musical performances running from around 4:00 until 9:00 pm. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few fireworks going off either. If it’s anything cool, I’ll have the video posted up here shortly.