Kermes 2.0

Kermes 2.0

Madrid, Spain – April 14, 2012

Leslie, Tyler, and I helped with the embassy table at the Kermes today. Kermes is a Spanish word signifying a popular open-air festival where there are a fair and amusements, sometimes organized for charity. While the Kermes in which we participated was indoors, it is a charity for causes championed by the Queen of Spain. Virtually all the embassies in Spain join, selling items from their countries. The proceeds go to the Queen’s charity. In 2010, our first exposure to Kermes, Leslie, and Hillary got to meet the Queen.

We arrived at the hall at Feria de Madrid at about 07:45. We waited for the van from the embassy to arrive. When it got there, we unloaded about one pallet worth of grocery items from the Navy Exchange. We carted those items upstairs to the exhibition hall. Ultimately the items will end up on the embassy table. The boxes included things such as peanut butter, brownie mix, pancake syrup, and Lucky Charms cereal. Depending on the item, they sold for 1€ to 5€ (US$1.22 to US$6.10).

The table set-up begins.

Working on the table.
Many hands make less work…
Boxes and boxes of stuff!
Other embassies setting up tables.
Peanut butter and bunting…
Dear ol’ Unc!
The lengthy escalator to the exhibition area.
Placing the finishing touches.
Some of the available fare.
The posters and “Unc” really made the area look nice.

After we sat up the embassy table, we began our wait for Princess Elena to stop at our table. For some reason, the Queen was not available this year. While we waited, a man approached me and began to tell me how the things we were selling reminded him of his time in New York City. He ultimately introduced himself as the Ambassador to Spain from the Philippines. We talked for ten or fifteen minutes. He was a lovely man.

A couple of preliminary shoppers.
The table is ready for prime time.
Some proud volunteers.
Admiring their work.
Departing in preparation for the arrival of the princess.
The deputy chief of mission (DCM) and his wife.
The photographer standing in for me may have let in a bit too much light, regardless, this is the first shift team.
From left to right, flags of the European Union, Madrid, and Spain fly in front of the Feria de Madrid.
Three key volunteers.
At their stations and ready to sell.
The DCM’s wife and a group of Spanish dancers.


While waiting for Princess Elena, but before the public entered, workers from the other embassy tables wandered the hall looking at what each embassy offered. At this event, it is customary to give the Queen a gift when she comes to each table. The gift from the United States was a basket full of the various items offered for sale that day. As the other embassy volunteers came by our table, we encountered a young boy. I guess he was about 11-years old. He slowly looked at everything on display at our table and then asked, “How much is the basket?” One of our group told him it was not for sale, but rather it was a gift for the Queen. He said, “Oh, so when I am the King, you will give me a basket?” Leslie replied, “Sure, when you are King of what country?” In a very matter-of-fact tone, somewhat indignant, he retorted, “Why Spain, of course!!”

When Princess Elena arrived at our table, many people had already entered the venue. So, it was a mob scene wherever she went. Thankfully I was able to get some good photographs.

The DCM’s wife and the DCM present Princess Elena with a gift.
Princess Elena was kind enough to pose with the embassy volunteers.


Shortly after Princess Elena departed our table, the three of us found out our shift was over. We took advantage of the time and walked around, looking at the table of the other embassies. We stopped at the Mauritania table, selling green, mint tea, among other things. Leslie and Tyler had some of the drinks. All I did was watch the show of the pouring of the tea. The man pouring did so with flair. He poured it from one cup to another, each about two or three feet apart. That resulted in foam on top of the tea.

Leaving the Mauritania table, Leslie and I bought a red wine at the Spanish table. There, we ran across the future King, who had visited our table earlier. His father, Jaime, the husband of Princess Elena, was staffing the Spanish table with help from Felipe, their son. Jaime was very friendly, and we certainly enjoyed Felipe.

Not far from the Spanish table we found the Belgium table. Tyler had a beer from there. Near that table, we ran into our friends Mary Lou and Joe. We walked with them for a little while. But, by that time, the exhibition hall became very crowded. We decided to punch the eject button and return home.

Pouring hot tea at the Mauritania table.
Selling all things from Belgium.
Very colorful costumes were the rule of the day.
O Canada!
Our good friend Mary Lou stopped by for a visit.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.