Mendoza’s main festival is the giant Fiesta de la Vendimia, or Wine Harvest Festival, which reaches its climax during the first weekend of March every year. Wine takes over the city and the tourist trade shifts into high gear. On the Sunday before the carnival proper (the last Sun in Feb), the Bendición de los Frutos, or Blessing of the Grapes, takes place, in a ceremony involving the bishop of Mendoza. During the week leading up to the grand finale, events range from folklore concerts in the centro cívico to Italian food and entertainment in the Plaza Italia. On Friday evening is the Vía Blanca, a parade of illuminated floats through the central streets, while on Saturday it’s the Carrusel, when a carnival parade winds along the same route, each department in the province sending a float from which a previously elected beauty queen and her entourage of runners-up fling local produce, ranging from grapes and flowers to watermelons and packets of pasta, into the cheering crowds lining the road. On Saturday evening, the Acto Central is held in an amphitheatre in the Parque San Martín; it’s a gala performance of song, dance and general kitsch-o-rama, hosted by local TV celebs, eventually leading up to a drawn-out vote – by political leaders representing each department in the province – to elect the queen of the festival. The same show is re-run, minus the election, and therefore less tedium, on Sunday evening. The spectacle costs millions of pesos and is a huge investment by the local wine-growers, but as it’s attended by some 25,000 people it seems to be financially viable. The organizers boast that it’s the biggest such festival in South America and one of the most lavish wine-related celebrations in the world. For more information contact the city’s tourist office.

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