Discovering Novi Bečej: Stories, people, history

By the paths of the past: Discover the rich history, interesting events and unforgettable people who have shaped Novi Bečej through time, as we return together to the heart of this beautiful city on the banks of the Tisza.

Fairs

In Novi Bečej and Vranjevo, fairs were held twice a year, in March (spring fair) and September (autumn fair). Vranjevo fairs were particularly large and could last up to three days, unlike the shorter duration of the Novi Bečej fairs. The main fair involved the sale of various goods, attracting not only buyers and sellers but also those who came to the fair for entertainment or, as it is said today, to "have a good time." The first and second days were dedicated to livestock fairs, with the sale of horses and cattle on the first day in Vranjevo, and cows, calves, pigs, and lambs on the second day. The third day, as mentioned, was a general fair for all kinds of goods. In Novi Bečej, the livestock fair lasted only one day, the day before the general fair.

Vranjevo's fair took place across the railroad, where the settlement of Novo Selo is now located, as it consisted of only one street at that time. The fairground in Novi Bečej was immediately on the right side after crossing the railroad barrier on the way to Bašajid. It was an open space where herds of sheep and pigs grazed. Today, a significant part of that area is populated, and entire streets have been built.

Fairs provided an opportunity for a multitude of buyers and sellers to gather in one place and at the same time. Goods ranged from livestock and agricultural tools to textiles, footwear, household necessities, gingerbread products, barrels, sieves, and hospitality products. Fairs were also a form of entertainment. Both young and old attended the fair not only to buy or sell but out of pure curiosity, to see familiar and unfamiliar faces, participate in the overall hustle and bustle, enjoy a glass of beer, watch circus acts, magic tricks, and take a ride on the merry-go-round.

For children, the products sold by the so-called "torbari" traders were of particular interest. These were mostly people from the then passive regions - Dalmatia, Lika, Bosnia, and Herzegovina - who carried their goods in front of them. They wore a basket made of canvas around their necks and shoulders, with a wooden bottom, containing various items such as razors, knives, spoons, harmonicas, whistles, children's toys, rubber bands, suspenders, belts, and walking sticks for the elderly. They spread their goods on a canvas laid on the grass or ground, creating a whole street of these Nuremberg goods. This merchandise was especially appealing to children, and crowds gathered around these vendors. It is remarkable how much merchandise they could stack in that basket, making it visible and attracting the attention of buyers. When all the goods were spread out on the fairground, on a blanket or canvas used by the torbari to cover their merchandise in case of rain or storm, it became evident that it was an entire small retail store.

Various craftsmen from Novi Bečej and surrounding villages, as well as those from distant places, used fairs as a significant venue for selling their products. The fairgrounds featured entire streets of shoemakers, cobblers, tailors, coopers, gingerbread makers, and candy manufacturers. In addition to artisans, textile traders used fairs to sell their lower-quality and outdated goods. The goal was to buy at a lower cost during the fair, and this merchandise gained prominence at fair stalls, making it attractive to buyers. Several rows of these textile tents could be found at Novi Bečej and Vranjevo fairs. Alongside traders from Novi Bečej, many others came from nearby towns such as Veliki Bečkerek (Zrenjanin), Velika Kikinda, Stari Bečej, Ada, Kula, Kanjiža, and other locations.

A special place at the fair was reserved for entertainment for both children and adults. Besides the merry-go-round, there were small shooting ranges with special rifles, modest circuses, and a game where people threw hoops made of reeds onto the neck of a duck swimming in a small pool made of wooden boards covered with canvas. Finally, various gamblers attempted to use various tricks to lure the gullible and cheat them out of the money they earned from selling cattle or other livestock. Usually, only farmers fell for this, as craftsmen and traders who were familiar with fairs and knew that money was easily lost in such places avoided trying their luck. Pickpockets also appeared in the fair crowds, attempting to extract money from the pockets of those who had earned it by selling cows, sheep, or similar.

Large hospitality tents occupied a separate area at the fair, attracting the biggest crowds. All the tables were continuously occupied, but there were still those who would just stand and have a mug of beer before going to explore or be with their goods, which they had brought to sell at the fair. These 4-5 tents at each fair represented a special event. Banat cuisine, along with wine, brandy, and especially beer, was served there. The aroma of roasting meat, especially known as "fair (gypsy) roasting," was an enticing lure. Nowhere else and at no other time could one smell such a captivating scent of roasting as at the fair. Alongside roasting, there were also grilled homemade sausages, slightly over-salted to encourage more drinking after such a delicious meal. Beer was quite expensive, 2.5 dinars for a mug, while for that money, one could drink two flasks of brandy (one flask contained 0.5 deciliters) or even more. However, rarely did any adult visitor to the fair deny themselves the "luxury" of having a mug of beer.

Tamburasi (traditional musicians) started playing from dawn and continued until late afternoon. Hospitality providers especially counted on the carelessness of individuals who, after shopping, would come to have a drink or two. Everyone's intention was modest—to have a drink or two—but there were many who forgot themselves and followed the motto "as long as one dinar lasts." They lost control, and at every fair, someone ended up drinking a horse or a couple of oxen, and a cow or piglets—something like that was customary. These individuals were the ones who influenced the fact that the tavern tents were the last to close at fairs. They were the only ones who, more than children, lamented the transience of the fair and found it extremely difficult to part with it. With songs and music, not infrequently, they bid farewell to the fair with tears. As soon as the crowd in the tent narrowed down to just one such person, the cafe owner would start "closing" the tent, tamburasi would leave the fair, and that person would remain in all his sadness, having lost not only cattle but also the fair itself.

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