For 34 hours, from Saturday 8 a.m. to Sunday evening 6 p.m., the city is transformed into a giant garage sale, with tens of thousands of seats in restaurants, expanded terraces open until 2 a.m., and food-trucks , to enjoy a beer or the essential mussels and fries.
“We will be able to hunt around at will again, stroll around, do good business, consume and enjoy ourselves”, summed up Jacques Richir, deputy mayor, during a press conference on Wednesday.
“Yes, it will smell of mussels, fries and pee (…) That’s it, the clearance sale. And let those who don’t like it leave town or close their windows”, smiled in July the Mayor Martine Aubry.
Spread over 180 hectares closed to traffic, thousands of local residents – residents of Lille, Lomme and Hellemmes – traders, but also 600 professional second-hand dealers and antique dealers, will offer antiques, second-hand clothes, toys and other heterogeneous objects.
At its origins, which date back to the Middle Ages, the braderie allowed servants to sell their masters’ old things. Having become international, it is organized every first weekend of September.
– Hotels and trains “taken by storm” –
After two years of cancellations – with a very small trade sale – “we expect a big edition”, with “two to three million visitors”, French, but also Belgians, English, Dutch … “, estimated Mr. Richir.
Hotels and rentals “are taken by storm”, “the SNCF says that the trains will be full”, and on the registration side, “we are full”, he adds. “The event is in the image of the city”: “festive, good-natured, safe, accessible” with its free entry, and “adapted to our era of circular economy”. Only downside: strike threats in public transport.
The sale wants to be “eco-responsible”: since 2017, the sale of new objects is prohibited, except for sedentary traders. The shells of the 500 tons of devoured mussels are recycled, in particular into slabs of tiles and decorative objects.
The city has been “scrutinizing” the weather for a week. “The sky seems to be clearing. It should be good, not too hot,” says Mr. Richir.
Concrete blocks, chicanes and barriers will allow “a perfect closure” of the perimeter, “entirely emptied of its cars” from Friday evening. Establishments will be able to broadcast music, but not organize concerts.
In 2016, the sale had to be canceled due to the terrorist threat. It returned in 2017 in a reduced perimeter, enlarged in 2018, accompanied by a large security system comprising 3,000 police, gendarmes and soldiers, always renewed since.
– “Party of the year” –
Professionals have been preparing for months. “Since May, we have been working with suppliers to select products, negotiate prices, claim goodies”, explains Coralie Toth, manager of the restaurant “Le Square Café”.
His cellar is full of a hundred barrels of beer. With 20 additional long tables on the terrace, it “doubled the staff in the dining room and took on three additional people in the kitchen”.
“For us, it’s the start of the season, the equivalent of April-May at sea. It sets the tempo for the rest,” she confides. “It’s also out of time, we work without counting our hours, always in joy”.
This return “is good for the economy and morale”, also enthuses Laurent Rigaud, president of the Chamber of Trades and Crafts. “We will find these large tables”, with “regional products and international visitors, it will be exceptional”.
The event “has an impact throughout the metropolis”, he assures. “Many residents invite family and friends”, who “go out, consume. As a butcher located 10 km away, it is 20% more turnover”.
“It was time for the clearance sale to become a clearance sale again!” Says Antoine Hannebicq, 45, who will come especially from Pas-de-Calais. “Walking around, drinking a beer on a corner of the table… That’s what we expect.”