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Riga throws 813th birthday bash

More than 200,000 revelers thronged into Riga this past weekend, filling the city’s riverside drive and downtown parks, squares and neighborhoods to mark its 813th birthday and enjoy the wealth of public activities hosted for the occasion.

Beginning already Friday, over 100 artistic, musical, theatrical, and various other cultural and recreational events featuring more than 5550 participants took place all over the city, centered upon the symbolic theme of ‘bridges’. The festivities were organized by the Riga City Council together with the board of the Free Port of Riga and the Riga Tourism Development Office.

Despite occasional bouts of intense rain which scattered attendees away from the festivities, Friday evening’s open-air activities included a ‘summer’s ball’ by the Stargorod brewery and a brass orchestra concert titled ‘Riga’s Stained Glass Windows’ featuring Latvia’s top composer Raimonds Pauls and vocalists Aija Vitolina and Daumants Kalnins at the Vermane Gardens’ ampitheatre.

Residents and visitors also enjoyed the spectacle of the colorful Riga Cup sailing race all weekend long from Friday through Sunday beyond the Vanšu bridge between Andrejsala island and Ķīpsala on the Daugava River.

But Riga’s canalside also saw its own carnivalesque event, in the Free Port of Riga’s Canal Regatta Cup 2014, featuring corporate-sponsored teams in a paddleboats race.  

On Saturday a cavalcade of motorcycle clubs and antique car owners paraded down Brivibas boulevard on their way to the Riga Fly-In 2014 International Airshow at Spilve Airfield, featuring the Riga Retro 2014 vintage automobile show. August 16 is an important date in Latvia’s aviation history, as it marked the Spilve Airfield’s 60th anniversary since opening, as well as the 100th anniversary of the first successful aircraft landing in its flat meadowlands. To further mark the occasion, the Spilve field also held the Ready to Race-All Motorsport Stars automotive and motor sports event.

Later the motorcycles and historic vehicles paraded back to downtown for the Riga Bridge Lights event along the November 11th Embankment and riverside promenade. It culminated in a concert and fireworks extravaganza titled ‘Everything is possible’, uniting the best of Latvian jazz artists with hot-blooded Brazilian and dazzling Australian artists, again symbolically underscoring the freedom we have in life to cross different bridges between languages, cultures and places.

Various locations around town featured street performers and musicians, while the Spīķeri quarter played host to the Riga Funk Fest musical gathering and the St.Peter’s Church square a performance of baroque music, while the Riga Dom Gardens was the site of a concert titled ‘ Voices of Latvian Birds’ and an opera by Franz Adam Veichtner, who was the Duke of Courland's court composer in the 1760's.

Sports enthusiasts had no lack of activities to attend, including the traditional basketball matches between Riga’s right-bank and left-bank resident celebrity teams, the orienteering race Great xRace Riga Adventure, and the Lucavsala Cup beach volleyball tournee.

On Sunday the celebrations turned to many family-oriented activities especially geared for the youngest residents and visitors to Riga, including the transformation of Vermane Gardens into a Dolls’ Park for a day.

At the Riga Zoo visitors could take part in the ‘Striped Day’ to discover the miraculous and varied world of animal colors and patterns. Meanwhile in Iļģuciems the colors and patterns of quilting and mosaic textile arts were on view at the international exhibit ‘Riga’s Summer’.

Animal lovers also had the chance to watch the first-ever International Canine Agility contest and demonstrations as well as visit with horses at the traditional Hay Market square.

The Riga City Council has published a gallery depicting much more of the many festivity events in all their vividness HERE.

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