oasis in the desert? Memories of the Olive Fair with Max Rabel

Jacques Brel, Johnny Halliday, Coluche, Claude François, Julien Clerc, Michel Sardou, Thierry Le Luron, Boney M, les 2 be 3, Sacha Distel, Dalida… The list is long, and we could spread a whole paragraph on it. There are many artists who went through the Olive Fair between the 1950s and the dawn of the twenty-first century. A golden parenthesis during which the Fair was “the number 1 event in Draguignan and Dracénie”.

The speaker is Max Rabel. Ex-president of the Fair, the man remembers a magical period with sweet nostalgia. “All the showbiz of the time went there. The Olive Fair was a benchmark. »

Difficult for the youngest to imagine what this Fair was. The esplanade of the alleys of Azémard, every last Saturday of June, was covered with stands of all kinds, to promote the products and know-how of the area. And at the very end of the course, after passing in front of each of the traders, a scene. The scene. The one who, for eight nights, was going to ignite the Dracénois.

So there have passed the greatest. “It was the date. A few months before, people waited impatiently to know the programming of the summer. It was unavoidable. » Essential for the public as for the artists. “There were a lot of people, the managers were won over. We were not yet at the time of the Zeniths”, continues Max Rabel. It was therefore in these big village festivals that the singers existed.

And the memories keep coming: “Michel Fugain, Pascal Sevran… We came across some charming people! Others less… » But everything always went well. Even when Francis Lalanne, who was to come with a dozen musicians, arrived on stage, alone with his guitar. Even when Claude François, in 1975, did not sing more than his refrains… “His performance was so bad that he wanted to correct it and come back shortly after. We accept. A month later he was dead. »

In front of the stage, it was madness. “Claude François, to come back to him, made 8,000 paying entries. Boney M, for the last big hit at the Fair, it was 8,500 in 1998 or 1999.” Not sure that all safety standards have been met. It was another era. A time no doubt idealized in the memories of some, while others keep a less idyllic memory. Especially towards the end.

In 2002, after a few lackluster editions, with returning artists (Hervé Villard, Frédéric François, Richard Anthony…), the Fair came to an end. “It was getting difficult. Financially, we could no longer follow. The stalls no longer came. » Because the budget came mainly from there, and from subsidies. “In 1980, we had 1 million francs in revenue on the stands and 60,000 euros in 2000.” Victim in particular of competition from supermarkets, the Fair disappeared, along with the concerts.

And since then, Draguignan has been a bit of an orphan. Max Rabel takes an uncompromising look at the state of the cultural offer in and around the city. “The truth is already that we don’t have a place to do concerts. Then the fees got too high. You have to be sure to fill your gauge, and in Draguignan, we are not sure. »

For the former president of the Olive Fair, the territory is not conducive to seeing the emergence of a new event of this magnitude. “The public here lacks purchasing power. There are not enough hotel offers. We can’t get tourists to come up the coast because we only move people for huge stars. In short, here, there is no potential. » Unless fashion returns “intimate concerts”.

Not won.

Between La Semaine du rire de Draguignan and Rire en vignes at the Château de Saint-Martin de Taradeau, the Dracénie often offers the public a way to guffaw without shame in the heart of summer. And for once, the artists who perform there have all the young talents to follow.

Last year, in the Taradean vineyard, the mentalist Viktor Vincent and the Bighead Jean-Fi Janssens were a hit. Enough to make the organizers want to continue the adventure.

“We offer artists a stage at the exit of the Avignon festival, it helps to attract talent”we confide on the side of the castle of Saint-Martin.

This year, Doully opens the season on Wednesday July 24th. A one woman show on addiction, with a young woman “atypical, endearing personality, flawless energy, impeccable, sincere and hard-working acting”.

The next day is the room And they lived happily who takes over. A fiercely joyful comedy about women, happiness, love, friendship…

Back to Draguignan, to the Haussmann park again, for the week of laughter, always free, and always enticing. On the program: the imitator Didier Gustin on Wednesday 31, and the Marseillais Patrick Bosso, on Saturday August 3. Two big posters that are likely to fill the green space, just like the others, despite the less high-sounding names of the artists proposed: the magician Eric Leblon on Thursday August 1 and the percussionists of Fills Monkey on Friday 2.

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oasis in the desert? Memories of the Olive Fair with Max Rabel

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