Despite an unrelenting downpour and cool temperatures, St. Petersburg marked its 316th birthday last weekend with plenty of pomp and splendor, as befitting the Venice of the North. Celebrations kicked off on Saturday with an ice cream festival and retro transport parade consisting of more than 200 buses, trams and trucks from private collections, museums and Russian and foreign transportation companies.
But the real fun began on Sunday.
The day began with a bike parade of more than 23,000 riders in brightly colored and quirky clothing showing off their customized two, and in some cases, one-wheelers. That was followed by a march of hula-hoop twirling circus performers and the famous Zapashny Brothers on horseback.
When they had passed, more than a thousand drummers poured into the streets, playing an improvised march and trying to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest drum crescendo. And they did it — 556 drummers performing the crescendo in St. Petersburg beat out the 104 of the previous record.
While all this was going on in one place, in other parts of the city horse-drawn carriages with representatives from Armenia, Kazakhstan and other countries rode along the streets; a live human hashtag was made; and yachts and sail boats raced on the Neva while the pop musicians Burito and Antoha MC performed in the city’s birthplace — Peter and Paul Fortress, where the first foundations were laid in 1703.
The star, or stars, of the birthday celebrations were the renowned opera singers Veronika Dzhioeva, Ildar Abdrazakov, and René Barbera, accompanied by the Mikhailovsky Symphony Orchestra and artists of the TODES ballet theater in “Classics on Palace Square.” The free concert was performed before an ecstatic, if rain-drenched, crowd.
It all ended late at night with a massive fireworks display, the opening of the Palace Bridge, and a flyboard artist performing a fire and water show 20 meters above the Neva River.
And then, tens of thousands of St. Petersburgians slowly made their way home in the northern summer light.