The French city of Menton breaks off its lemon festival because of Corona, which attracts tens of thousands. Right-wing politicians are already calling for the nearby border to Italy to be closed.
A few hours before, the German statue, a beer-drinking Bavaria, sounded beer-like: “Your thirst remains forever, your hunger fades.” The statue is part of the lemon festival in Menton, where 200 tons of lemons, mandarins and oranges are put together to form carnival figures. It is the highlight of the year for the city on the Italian border, with 200,000 people coming.
The motto this time was the “Feasts of the World”, the beer-drinking leather braces symbolize the Munich Oktoberfest. On Wednesday evening, the songs of the Bavarian figure fell silent: the city closed the park with the statues due to the coronavirus in the neighbouring Italian regions and cancelled the last street parades.
“This is the worst case,” says Christophe Ghana. At the lemon festival, he has been taking care of safety for 15 years. The Mentonais have been celebrating their carnival for almost 90 years, and until now it had to be cancelled: in the Gulf War in 1991. “Otherwise we always managed to react to global events,” says Ghana. Even when, after the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2016, all festivals in France either had to be cancelled or equipped with electronic security gates, such as at airports.
At that time, Ghana made many night shifts. He faced his most significant task so far: the 53-year-old had to find electricity for 32 locks in the middle of the city, where there is only a green festival meadow. Finally, he got the electricity from the network for the street lamps; the festival took place as usual. But this time, the enemy cannot be stopped with a metal detector: the viruses are invisible, and the sick cannot be recognized. “This time we only have to cancel the festival,” says Ghana.