Scarlet Sails (tradition)

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Firework during the show actually features a ship (the frigate Standart) with red sails
Crowd at Nevsky prospect, gathering to show (2008)

The Scarlet Sails (Russian: Алые паруса) is a celebration in St. Petersburg, Russia, the most massive and famous public event during the White Nights Festival. The tradition is highly popular for its spectacular fireworks, numerous music concerts, and a massive water show. The Scarlet Sails show celebrating the end of school year 2007 was attended by more than one million people.[1] In 2010, public attendance grew to 3 million, and entertainers were such stars as the Cirque du Soleil, Mariinsky Ballet and Antonio Banderas, among others.[2]

This tradition began after the end of World War II, when several Leningrad schools united to celebrate the end of the school year in connection with the symbolism of the popular 1922 children's book Scarlet Sails by Alexander Grin. During the first celebration, a boat with scarlet sails sailed along the English Embankment and the Admiralty Embankment towards the Winter Palace. Although it was designed to update the rusty revolutionary propaganda, the "Scarlet Sails" tradition eventually evolved into a massive demonstration of freedom from "schools and rules" and has become the most popular public event annually celebrating the end of school year.

Crowds of about one million people are treated to a wide variety of free entertainment provided by the city of St. Petersburg.[3] Entertainment also includes appearances by popular rock stars, as well as the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, ballet, and other classical acts, performing on several stages simultaneously during the event. The show also includes a series of large-scale events on the waters of the Neva river, such as rowing and motorboat races, and a massive battle with pirates culminating in the appearance of a tall ship sporting spectacular scarlet sails.[4] The show has become the main part of the White Nights celebration.

The popularity of both the book and the tradition was boosted after the 1961 release of the film Scarlet Sails.

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