Paris may have the honor of hosting the 2024 Olympics, but one of France’s smaller locales is getting in on the action as well. In Menton on the French Riviera, revelers are welcoming the upcoming Summer Games through a 90-year-old tradition: the Lemon Festival.

Fête du Citron, as it’s called in French, was launched in 1934 to celebrate Menton’s status as one of Europe’s leading lemon producers. Early iterations of the annual event entailed displays of citrus fruit and flowers in the town’s public gardens and blooming shrubs being carted through the streets, but it’s considerably more elaborate today.


Over 200,000 people flock to the small town to take part in the carnival, which sees more than 140 metric tons of lemons and oranges transformed into incredible floats that are designed around a specific theme. Last year, the theme was “Rock and Opera.” This year, it’s “From Olympia to Menton.”

The festival kicked off Feb. 17 and will run until March 3, and it boasts massive citrus constructions in the forms of athletes as well as the Greek goddess of victory and the Olympic torch. And as one can imagine, assembling the nearly 500,000 pieces of fruit required is no easy task.

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Technical director Christophe Ghiena told the BBC it calls for about 3,000 hours of labor over two weeks. “We have to be very quick to ensure that the fruit remains in the best possible condition during the two-week festival,” he said.


The floats are paraded down the coastal town’s Promenade du Soleil, accompanied by dancers and musicians, with fireworks capping off some evenings, according to Wanderlust magazine. In addition, beautiful sculptures adorn the Jardins Bioves, the same public gardens that displayed citrus art during the festival’s early incarnations almost a century ago. A crafts fair and orchid festival are also on this year’s itinerary.


Though Menton was once a major lemon exporter, the town can no longer fulfill the citrus needs of its festival. Those used to create the floats and sculptures came from Spain, per the Associated Press, but the Menton lemon, which has been cultivated since the 16th century, is still renowned.

“Honestly, we prefer that people taste our lemons rather [than] look at them on display,” said Marine Krenc, an events manager for Menton’s tourism office.

In 2015, the European Union recognized the variety with a protected geographical index. And chefs have been known to extol its virtues. “This lemon resembles no other,” Luisa Delpiano-Inversi, founder of a Menton-based pasta producer, wrote in her 2017 book about the fruit. “Its juice is intensely fragrant with a semi-acidic flavor and no bitterness.”



In fact, the Menton lemon’s history is part of what draws so many people to the festival each year.

“The visitors are a lot more interested in the story of the Menton lemon than before. Before they came mostly to see the sculptures and attend the parade,” David Rousseau, director of Menton’s heritage department, told the BBC in 2022. “Today, they really wish to discover the city and not just come to see the floats.”