The XIII Youth Song and Dance Festival, held last weekend, catered to some 90,000 spectators who watched performances by 31,415 singers, dancers and musicians.
Pärt Uusberg, art director of the XIII Youth Song and Dance Festival "Püha on maa" ("Sacred is the land"), said that the experience is only now sinking in. "Emotions played havoc on one's perception of time on Sunday. It seemed like the opening joint choir performed one day, the main concert took place on another and the final joint choir the next day again," Uusberg said, adding that he is very happy with the result.
"My sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who participated in the process. The concert was complete and beautiful, sported a high artistic level and was performed with total conviction. I saw in young people's eyes that they not just sang but really believed the message," Uusberg said.
Even though the first bout of showers and thunder gave everyone a proper scare, Uusberg described the rain as symbolic. "It's as if it washed us clean on the backdrop of recent difficult times," he said, adding that the land also needed a drink after a long drought. The art director said that the extreme weather made the festival both surreal and majestic. "During the three final songs of the closing joint choir, one of my eyes was crying and the other laughing – it was both surreal and majestic how soaked we were," Uusberg laughed.
The festival's executive director Agne Kurrikoff-Herman and Pärt Uusberg said it was prophetic that Mari Kalkun's "Sata-sata!" (Rain-rain!) was featured in both dance and song festival performances. "When the two sides presented their repertoire for the festival and realized that "Sata-sata!" was the song they had in common, we were sure it had to be an omen," Kurikoff-Herman said.
Erik Velleramm, head of the festival's medical service, said there were no major emergencies during the celebration.
"We would like to thank our first aid volunteers and partners who were on location and who helped us realize ideas and rise to challenges," the festival's medical chief said. Velleramm added that a total of 4,373 cases of medical assistance were registered, with 44 people sent home and 36 stopping by a hospital.
Ants Aguraiuja, head of fire safety for the festival, said that rescue workers' main tasks were to assist the police and medical workers. The emphasis was on battling the elements, helping dancers cool off by spraying them with water when the weather was hot and singers get warm in tents when it started pouring rain. "We had three vehicles at the dance festival locations and used a total of six tons of water," he said.
Around 350 police officers contributed to the safety of the festival over the weekend. The focus was on traffic supervision, public order and the personal safety of participants. Most often, the police's help was needed when children needed to find their teachers, group members or parents. There were 70 cases of lost children all of whom where reunited with instructors or parents.
The police found 80 missing items most of which were returned to their owners. Some finds are still waiting to be collected at the Ida-Harju Police Department.
The police registered around 780 cases of speeding near the Song Festival Grounds over two days. "There were traffic stoppages, which is to be expected with such crowds, while the traffic situation was smooth for the most part," Roger Kumm said for the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA).
The reusable deposit cups and plates system, used for the first time at a major public event, held, and no lines formed outside return tents. Around 120,000 reusable bowls and spoons were given out to participants during the festival weekend, while 134,000 dishes and 44,000 utensils were issued to spectators of the dance and song performances.
Margus Toomla, head of the Estonian Song and Dance Festival Foundation, said that the organizers' path to the festival was eventful and instructive also in light of future celebrations. "Work to organize the 2025 Song and Dance Festival is already underway. The team and I will be discussing which ideas need more work and what we can take with us from this year's festival," Toomla said, adding that work on the 2028 festival will start this fall.
Festivals that were scheduled to take place in 2027 and 2029 will be merged and held in 2028. "This will likely lead to a longer festival week and a greater number of participants, concerts and performances," the foundation's head said.
Toomla said that the festival is organized by an endless number of teams and volunteers, with everyone contributing to the common goal. "The whole logistical side of the Song and Dance Festival is fascinating. Talking about medical services, security, traffic, catering, reusable cups and bowls, waste management etc. The festival is the only place in Estonia where one can experience this level of preparation work, Toomla said, adding that preparations start with parents who take their children to folk dancing or choir practice and go all the way to bus drivers who get the kids safely to Tallinn for the big party.
Editor: Marcus Turovski