The Laruns Cheese Fair, pastoralism and Béarnese traditions in celebration October 2 and 3, 2021

Laruns
The Laruns Cheese Fai ...

If for many of us the month of September marks the end of the summer holidays, it marks for the shepherds and their flocks the end of transhumance in the Béarn mountains. In the Ossau Valley, it will soon be time to savor the first Ossau-Iraty productions of the summer season, the only farmhouse cheese made from pure sheep's milk with a Protected Designation of Origin of Béarn and the Basque Country.

It is on this occasion that the Laruns Cheese Fair is held annually on the first weekend of October: an unmissable event to celebrate pastoral culture and fully immerse yourself in the flavors of the Pyrenees. On the program: traditional dances and songs, concerts, exhibitions, demonstration of herding dogs and sheep shearing, cheese-making workshop, old crafts, tastings, old-fashioned market and the famous competition which rewards the best cheeses from summer of the year! So many authentic moments to experience and share with family or friends, throughout this festive weekend in Laruns.

Important: 2021 Edition - As part of the sanitary protocol on events, the 2021 edition of the Fair will be held on a single day, Sunday October 3, near the 2015 Space with the sanitary pass for all participants and visitors. The event is renamed "Le Jour du Fromage" on this occasion, a day where cheese is honored with the competition for the best cheese made in the Ossau Valley, the sale of cheese and the fodder competition. Pastoral activities and entertainment for children will be offered as well as street music. Stands from local producers will also be present.


Laruns Cheese Fair

Photos of the article © Lesley Williamson for the Guide du Béarn

NB: All the photos in this article were taken before the health crisis, the animations described are subject to modification according to government directives.


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Notice to cheese lovers and gourmets!

Here is a gastronomic event not to be missed! The village of Laruns wears its festive clothes and stands out as a true cheese capital with its fair dedicated to the noble dairy product: the Hera deu hromatge. The fruit of the summer work of landless shepherds is in the spotlight: 20 shepherds have their cheeses tasted, 30 shepherds take part in the competition for the best cheese, 750 cheeses are exhibited in the Halles and more than 1,000 cheeses are sold during the 2 days. Let us recall all the same the imposing format of these tommes which weigh between 3.8 and 6 kg according to the Béarn tradition, or those between 1.8 and 3.3 kg typical of the Basque Country. Spring cheeses or summer cheeses, the farms compete in flavors to seduce the taste buds of visitors. To be enjoyed without moderation!


Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair


To appreciate the different flavors and the subtlety of the aromas of the cheese, a “ tasting workshop is led by a professional from the Ecole du Goût and a shepherd producer from the Ossau Valley, combined with a tasting of Jurançon wine. Its delicate aromas, its textures varying from supple to firm, its more or less intense taste depending on its ripening... and always that slight nutty flavor so characteristic... Ossau-Iraty will no longer hold any secrets for you! This sheep's milk cheese pairs wonderfully with the local black cherry jam.


Read our article on the essential cheeses of Béarn



  Laruns cheese fair


On both sides of the fair, the shepherds are happy to explain the manufacturing process, the maturing time (between 80 to 120 days), to share their experience of the pastoral world and their manifest passion. for the animals and the mountain. Historically, sheep's cheese has played an important role in the Atlantic Pyrenees: in the 14th century, it was the primary source of income for shepherds and an official exchange value in many rental or sales contracts.


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A showcase of the Bearn region and regional specialties

If cheese is undeniably the big star of the stalls, other regional specialties are not left out! Promoting local know-how, Béarnaise, Gasconne and Occitan culture, many producers present a whole range of culinary products and local flavors: Basque cakes, spit cakes, hams and cold meats, chestnuts, traditional breads, honey, homemade jams, wines and brandies. Typical dishes such as chicken in the pot and lamb from the Pyrenees are offered on the menus of all the restaurateurs in Laruns during this gourmet weekend.


Read our article on the gastronomic specialties of Béarn, to have an overview of the delicacies to taste during your stay!


Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair   Laruns cheese fair

In addition to the regional gastronomy, many craftsmen make discover other local productions and typical of the region: espadrilles from the Basque Country, products derived from leather and sheepskin, mohair wool clothes etc... The fair also welcomes of 120 exhibitors, artists and producers on the old-fashioned market organized in the streets of the village, pedestrianized and mulched for the occasion!


Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair   Laruns cheese fair 

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The highlights of the Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair
© Laruns cheese fair

In addition to the taste pleasures, the festivities are going well all weekend to the delight of the 15,000 visitors who participate annually. Here are the highlights and the events not to be missed!

  • Musical entertainment: the village vibrates to the rhythm of musicians strolling through the alleys of the village (Bearn music, folk songs, fanfare).
  • The “Biftekade” under the big top : nearly 1,300 meals served featuring beef from Béarn, an exceptional local product (menu and reservations via the tourist office).
  • The Audience Prize and the Children's Prize: on Saturdays, the public is invited to choose and reward the best cheese. Supervised by a professional in the sector, around twenty privileged people will be able to exercise their palates according to a rigorous selection method. The Children's Prize is intended for little cheese lovers!
  • Shepherds' Mass: celebrated on Sunday morning in Saint Peter's Church by Abbot Som in the presence of musicians and shepherds.
  • Live cheese making: a workshop to discover the profession of shepherd and the basics of cheese production (broadcast on a giant screen).
  • Shearing a flock of sheep: with scissors as in the past or with a mower, this demonstration shows great know-how and a very strong bond with animals. Anxious to respect animal welfare, the gestures are precise and the sheep docile. A spectacle not to be missed!
  • The cheese competition: organized by the Farm Producers of the Ossau Valley, it is open to shepherds who make “pure ewe” cheeses in the Ossau Valley. The jury is made up of around thirty professionals from the cheese industry and catering. The batches of cheese are presented without any distinction so as to be as objective as possible and are classified into 2 categories: summer cheeses and winter cheeses. Among the rating criteria, we find: the rind (color, texture, grain, holes), weight, firmness, elasticity, smell and aromas (hay, fruit, flower, earth…). The awards ceremony takes place on Sunday on the stage podium!
  • The fodder competition: Who says good cheese, says good fodder! Since ewes are ruminants, the quality of their food is decisive for the taste of the cheese. Forage samples are thus presented and judged according to various criteria: type of mowing, botanical composition, visual quality (odor, color, percentage of stems / ears, etc.)

Entertainment for families and children

Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair Old-fashioned gendarmes!

A family outing par excellence, this cultural event is very popular with children thanks to the many activities put in place especially for them: children's choirs, concerts, activities and entertainment in the parking lot of the center next to the marquee. The educational farm allows you to learn more about the Pyrenean breeds and to stroke the animals.

An ancestral event in the Ossau Valley: from St Michel to the present day

The first edition of the cheese fair dates back to 1885, on St Michael's Day on September 29. This important meeting in the valley was held in Béost, which brought together wholesalers, traders and horse-dealers from Bordeaux and Toulouse to buy sheep, horses, cows and lambs. This gathering was traditionally followed on the first Saturday in October by the cheese fair which was held in the halls of Laruns. Returning from a long summer pasture, the shepherds came back down from the mountains with their summer produce ready to be weighed by the rural warden. The fair of the time was responsible for choosing the best cheese according to quality criteria already well established. If the cheese trade is now organized all year round, this festive event remains a guardian of deeply rooted traditions where each trade coexists to make it a high place of commercial exchange and a convivial event. warm !


Laruns cheese fair

Laruns cheese fair   Laruns cheese fair


The Cheese Fair is organized by the Hera deu Hromatge association made up of Farm Producers from the Ossau Valley, Calandra Aussalesa, Olympique Ossalois and various actors in local life supported by the Tourist Office from Laruns.


How to get there ?

From Pau, when you arrive at the Béost bridge at the entrance to Laruns, a team of volunteers will take you to the large free parking lot at Laneplaa. Free shuttles are available to visitors from the parking lot for transport to the Fair, a 10-minute walk away.

For motorhomes, spaces are reserved along the old railway line overlooking the RD934, at the gléré du Pon, on the grass area of Espalungue and in the parking lot behind the swimming pool.

Entrance to the fair is free. To participate in the festive dinners offered by the restaurateurs around large tables with good franquette, it is advisable to book in advance.


Did you like this report? Consult the Guide Béarn Pyrénées Blog. Discover others by subscribing to the Facebook page of the Béarn Pyrénées Guide. We also have an Instagram page @guidebearnpyrenees.


Photos and Article prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Guide du Béarn-Pyrénées


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