Dendermonde postpones Ros Beiaard procession again, to 2022


One of Flanders’ biggest heritage celebrations is again postponed, as it’s better to wait another year than have a joyless, corona-proof event, the city has decided

Horse trading

Dendermonde in East Flanders has decided to postpone its historic Ros Beiaard procession for another year. The once-a-decade event had already been delayed from May 2020 to May 2021, because of the coronavirus restrictions. Now it will take place on 29 May 2022.

“It was a difficult decision, but we had no other choice,” explained the city’s mayor, Piet Buyse, to VRT. “A lot of events in the spring are being cancelled; the vaccine will arrive too late.”

The Ros Beiaard, or Bayard Steed, parade has its roots in a medieval saga about four brothers and a mythical horse. The horse at the centre of today’s event is five metres high, draped in the city’s colours, with a carved wooden head that dates to 1600.

We will certainly have grown by then. Suppose I get a growth spurt?

- Wout Cassiman, age 12

The whole construction is carried through the town by 12 strong men called pijnders. It is ridden by four brothers selected from a local family.

One of the issues that has thwarted plans to hold the procession in 2021 is the difficulty of getting the 12 pijnders together for training and rehearsals when the coronavirus restrictions limit outdoor gatherings to four people.

The same restrictions, which will apply through to mid-January, will also stop many of the musical and theatrical associations preparing for their parts in the celebration.

Share the joy

But the city is also reluctant to hold a watered-down version of Ros Beiaard. “We don’t want to have corona proof procession, where we have to keep our distance, where we cannot fall into each other’s arms,” Buyse said. “Having to stay a metre and a half apart is not possible when there is such an explosion of emotion.”

While the four brothers selected to ride the horse will have to wait, Het Laaste Nieuws reports that the two-year delay will not take them outside the required age bracket. But their costumes will need to be adjusted before the event.

“We will certainly have grown by then,” confided 12-year-old Wout Cassiman to the paper. “Suppose I get a growth spurt?”

All tickets sold for the 2020 event will remain valid in 2022, although refunds are possible for people who cannot attend. These tickets will be resold at the end of 2021.

The city has also decided that the delay will be a one-off. The following Ros Beiaard will take place in 2030, as history dictates, rather than in 2032.

Photo: The last Ros Beiaard procession was in 2010
©Paul Hermans/Wikipedia