Bärentag – The Feast of a Bear: Corona Edition

The newly founded festival of a Bear (in german Bärentag, founded in 1998 in Basel, Switzerland) is in general focused on solidarity and social integration and therefore consists of parade (namely the dancing of the Bear) that goes through the Lesser Basel district and some of its important parts (read more about the Festival here).

Due to the covid-19 related events of last year and this year as well were big processions or gatherings in most of the countries around the world prohibited, and the Swiss city was unfortunately no exeption. The organizers of the Festival however decided to adapt to the situation and make the event happen anyway in slightly different form than usual. The following text is therefore description of this years modified Festival of a Bear and also demonstration of how social and cultural sector can change, adapt and still be creative and inventive in spite of the pandemic situation.

“Anders als sonst aber trotzdem gemeinsam.”
Motto of this years event, in translation meaning that all is different than usual, but we are still together, shows us very nicely that eventhough the people could not attend the event in person and watch the Bear dance in the spot, they could still be part of it in some ways. One of the means of joining was of course watching everything online, as the Bear with his dance moves and the musicians accompanying him on drum and trumpet were recorded and the several short videos were streaming online on their Facebook page (You can watch it here, here, here, here and here.)
The Bear with the music took his usual route through Lesser Basil district and stoped for dancing on several relevant places, as you can see on the videos mentioned earlier (you can find all of them as well as last years recordings on this Facebook page.

Important part of the event and its promotion consisted also of the so called bärenbanner – banners or little flags with the shape of the Bear and the words The Bär ist da! meaning that the Bear is here. People who wanted to show their support to the Festival and display their involvement could put these banners to their windows, as you can see in this video on Facebook or the gallery attached bellow. The colorful banners and engagement of people (no matter if from their regular windows or windows of their browsers) were a reminder that the sense of peacefully sticking together and supporting each other is nowadays all the more important.

The main organizator, Franca Mader, provided us with this commentary for this years Festival:
“It was good. Finally some of the cheerful normality in these thin times. But you could really feel the audience being absent. I really hope that next year we will have again a normal Bärentag!” (Franca Mader, the main organizator, 12.1.2021)

One more commentary from a regular participant Marc Wey:
“The Day of the Bear received exceptionally good media coverage. For the dancing Bear and the musicians it was a very special experience to perform without viewers in remote scenic places – like the shore of the river Rhine. It was total focus on their playing together.” (Marc Wey, participant, 12.1.2021)

As a word to conclude I would like to present here one more quotation from one of the musicians that regularly participates in the Festival, becuase I believe that it illustrates this years mood and vibe aptly:

“It was very different this time. Without children. Without reaction from the children. That was weird. That is always the best thing, the children who enjoy the Bear. But it was great, the Bear danced. Only it was very short. I did not get fever like when we play all day and then at night.” (Lars Handschin, Drummer of the Baer, 12.1.2021)

Official website of the event

PF from local newspapers (PDF form):
BAZ_Ein Bärentag wie nie zuvor – Der einsame Tanz des Meister Petz _ Basler Zeitung
BZ_Trotz Regen und Corona tanzte die Bärin ganz alleine durch Kleinbasel – Basel Stadt – Basel – bz – Z