Bembibre’s Botillo Festival started in 1973, with Alberto Blanco Riego being mayor. It was in the month of June, coinciding with the Exit of the Saint celebration, which is held every seven years.

At that time a group of friends decided to take advantage of their stay in Bembibre to celebrate a meal in which to taste the most typical product of the town, the ‘botillo’, taking into account that several of the attendees could not buy it in their hometowns.

It was a hasty decision that could not have a municipal budget, but in which companies in the area were involved in order to carry it out. In the end, this meeting had 196 guests.

Menu of the I National Festival of Exaltation of Botillo / Historical Memory of the Botillo Festival

Once the desserts had been served and taking advantage of the presence of Antonio Miguel Díaz Carro, a village’s lawyer and an expert in its history, the organizing committee asked him to address a few words to the public. and thus the figure of the mantenedor was born.

For the next edition, in 1974, word of mouth had worked and the number of guests increased, reaching two hundred who, on this occasion, gathered for dinner in the interior area of the Dancing Club.

Antonio Díaz Carro repeated as maintainer. From that year on, the Botillo Festival was definitely consolidated. So being the botillo a Winter dish the celebration date was stabilised as “the Saturday preceding the Saturday of Carnival.”

New editions were held at the Dancing Club, which was too small to accommodate the large number of guests interested in participating. In 1982 the gala dinner was held at the New Brothers Restaurant, whose facilities hosted the event until 1994.

The waiter serves the traditional Charlota cake at the first dinner held at the New Brothers restaurant / Archivo Ayuntamiento de Bembibre

Since 1995 the meeting has taken place in the municipal sports pavilions, decorated until they become a luxurious restaurant and a large dance floor, in which more than a thousand people meet each year.

Festival of National Tourist Interest

Without a doubt, the best impulse for the festival was the recognition as Festival of National Tourist Interest by the State Secretariat for Tourism and Trade, on the 4th June 2008. It represented a qualitative leap in the projection of the Festival beyond the Autonomous Community of Castilla y León, promoting visits and cultural and gastronomic exchanges in different disciplines throughout the national territory.

This declaration highlights its uniqueness and its ability to mobilize an entire population, fully identified with its most important cultural manifestation, in the confidence that this festival will continue to preserve in the future “the tourist attractions that have earned it this title. honorific”.

Preparation of the dining room before the arrival of the guests / Bembibre Town Hall Archive

To a large extent, the events that enrich the Botillo Festival’s programming and that reinforce its historical-cultural character have contributed to this recognition. Proof of this is the cultural week, which includes a set of activities dedicated to Botillo on a wide variety of cultural or gastronomic themes; or the Agrifood Fair that, turned into an inseparable element of the Festival, attracts thousands of visitors every year to learn about the offer of the participating exhibitors.

The Botillo Festival events

The formal events of the Festival were initially held in the old Cinema Paz that was enabled for this purpose until 1998. On that date, the mantenedor was the President of the Supreme Court Javier Delgado Barrio.

The following year, a new cycle began at the headquarters of the Obra Social y Cultural de Caja España, a bank institution, until 2002. That year, the mantenedor was the writer Alfonso Ussía.

In 2003, the president of the council of de Castilla y León, Juan Vicente Herrera, inaugurated Bembibre´s Municipal Theater, which was the stage for the Botillo acts until 2006.

The renovated Cinema Paz, renamed the Benevivere Theater / Bembibre City Council Archive

Since 2007 the meeting has taken place in the municipal sports pavilion Manuel Marqués Patarita. There was only one exception in 2011 when it was moved to the Bembibre Arena for its inauguration.

The National Festival of Exaltation of Botillo has had a great acceptance not only in Bembibre in the whole of the Bierzo region, but also outside the local borders. Interest continues to grow, reaching, as a general rule, more than a thousand people at the gala dinner.

The latest editions of the Botillo Festival have exceeded all expectations: in 2016 the barrier of 1,100 diners was surpassed. A year later, in 2017 (with Vicente del Bosque as maintainer), the tickets were sold out in just six hours and had an attendance of over 1,200 diners.

It was the same number that was registered in the 2018 edition to achieve a new record at the XLVII National Festival of Exaltation of Botillo, which was held in 2019.

It was then that the need to expand the capacity began to be raised with a change of approach in the distribution of the dining room that would allow a greater number of diners to be accommodated.

The solution consisted of joining the two spaces of the pavilion (previously, one was used for the cultural event and the other for the dining room) with an attached tent for the Botillo events.

The end result: more than 1,400 diners, the Botillo Festival that has broken all records to date.

XLV Botillo Festival (2017) / (Photos: Héctor Keudell)

XLVIII Botillo Festival (2020) / (Photos: Dani Quiterio )

How do we know what day the Botillo Festival is celebrated?

In 1975 there was a turning point that would mark the future of the gastronomic event: the exact date for its celebration.

From that moment on, Botillo is celebrated “on the Saturday preceding Carnival Saturday.”