Magical Autumn, a celebration of nature that involves an entire rural region, is a project led by the Local Action Group that has successfully become an economic catalyst based on promoting activities in a highly attractive natural environment in a responsible manner, fostering environmental respect, and enhancing territorial governance.
The project is located at Ambroz Valley, West side of Spain near Portugal in Extremadura region. Is an event that includes more than 70 activities over six weekends around the month of November. It is a celebration in which outdoor activities take center stage, such as hiking, cycling, orienteering, photography, astrotourism, or mycology, among others.
But it also features traditional cuisine, craftsmanship, music, theater, and other recreational offerings.
Along the way, it has managed to grow and become a recognized festival throughout Spain, receiving awards and recognition, and it has even been replicated in other European countries.
Presentation of the project
The project is located at Ambroz Valley, West side of Spain near Portugal in Extremadura region. It involves the 8 municipalities covered by the LEADER project: Abadía,
Aldeanueva del Camino, Baños de Montemayor, Casas del Monte, La Garganta, Gargantilla, Hervás and Segura de Toro.
Ambroz Valley is a rural area that suffered a deep economic crisis at the end of the last century. At the same time, the tourism business was growing and becoming the economic alternative for the area. However, tourists came only in Spring and Summer, which was a serious obstacle for the development of the business. At the same time, the LAG (Local Action Group) was starting to work in the area and faced the problem of localism: people weren’t used to working united as Ambroz Valley, and there was a need for a new idea that could bring them together to work towards a common goal.
The Magical Autumn is an event that includes more than 70 activities over six weekends around the month of November. It is a celebration in which outdoor activities take center stage, such as hiking, cycling, orienteering, photography, astrotourism, or mycology, among others. But it also features traditional cuisine, craftsmanship, music, theater, and other recreational offerings.
Its first edition took place in 1998, promoted by the Local Action Group and funded through the LEADER program. It has been celebrated every year without interruption, and in 2023, it marks its 26th edition, and it has achieved the status of National Tourist Interest Festival in Spain. Since its beginning, it continues to be organized by the Local Action Group and funded through LEADER funds.
The project has three main objectives:
- Breaking the tourist seasonality in Autumn, discovering that this season is very attractive, and helping to maintain employments
- Overcome the barriers that obstruct the common work, encouraging self-esteem, improving living quality and maintaining the population.
- Discover the value of our environment, and thus the need for caring for it.
Talking about the results, it has achieved important economic benefits:
- It has become a National Interest Fiesta, with nearly 40.000 participants in 2022 edition.
- Magic Autumn has been finalist in Natura 2000 AWARD at 2018, promoted by EC, and won several awards like the best tourism project of the region of Extremadura in 2022 by the Regional Rural Network (REDEX)..
Also social and environmental benefits:
- It helps a lot to increase living quality in the area, and helps fighting depopulation
- The event relies on the rich nature of the area, and thus it nurtures the need of caring the environment.
It also has been a success from the point of view of empowering the population.
It is the only project that involves a whole area of 8,000 inhabitants, connecting cultural associations, sports clubs, municipalities, women’s associations, and many individuals working together towards a common goal.
The LAG is working to help Magical Autumn achieve the status of an INTERNATIONAL Tourist Interest Festival.
Magical Autumn has been a key project in uniting all the municipalities in the area to work towards a common goal. In this regard, the leadership of the Local Action Group has been vital, as it has allowed the project to continue until it has become a hallmark of the Ambroz Valley. The support of the LEADER program has also been crucial, enabling the event to be developed year after year without interruption, maintaining its quality.
The distinctive element of this project is that activities are organized by the Local Action Group in collaboration with civil society within the region, rather than by external companies. This optimizes the use of public funds available for the project, which are modest considering the quality, quantity, and impact of the scheduled actions.
Undoubtedly, the project has had a significant economic impact, resulting in job creation during what was previously a period of low tourist occupancy. It has also greatly contributed to promoting this tourist region both within and outside of Spain.
From an environmental perspective, important milestones have been achieved, such as the Red Natura 2000 award, and increased environmental awareness through the annual actions included in Magical Autumn.
The fact that local associations, especially those led by women, play a central role in several activities throughout the event clearly boosts the self-esteem of the local population and, as a result, strengthens the social fabric of the region.
The idea is absolutely transferable, in the Extremadura region, the neighboring area Valle del Jerte started the project “Otoñada” inspired by our project.
Within the cooperation project “5 Star Nature,” involving 6 LAGs from Estonia, Finland, Italy, and Spain, the partners started a similar project in Estonia called the Mud Month Festival (Porikuu Festival) in 2019.
Website of the event: https://visitambroz.es/otono_magico/otono-magico-2023/
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/ambroz.magico/
Instagram profile: @valleambroz