The roots of the Manfredonia Carnival get lost in time. The scenes represented on the Daunian Stele (VII and VI BC) testify to the existence of rites that could presage the Dionysian or Bacchanal ones: these traditions inspired the Manfredonia Carnival, which recovered its magnificence in the first Post-War period to become more spectacular in the second one with the name of "Carnevale Dauno", declared by the Apulia Region "event of regional interest" and associated with the European Federation of Carnival Cities.
The typical mask of the Manfredonia Carnival represents a cheerful peasant called "Ze Pèppe". Legend has it that he came to the city driving a cart to have fun with the locals. Ze Pèppe wanders through the streets sowing happiness and light-heartedness, scraping together crowds of jokers who follow him in his raids, guzzling bottles of wine, the elixir for a happy and carefree life. It is said that at the end of the party, after having overdoing the fun, he caught the flu and died during the carnival celebrations of Mardi Gras. In the 1950s, Ze Pèppe's puppet, beautifully crafted by local labourers, opened the long and merry parade of bicycles, which started the celebrations. During all the carnival festivals Ze Pèppe is the city's king, pervading the whole town with hilarity and light-heartedness and mocking misery and abuse. He is the long-awaited guest of honor in the so-called "socie", masked dances organized by "u chèpe 'ndreje", a well-known and feared person, with rules that the members and the masked patrons who attend them are required to respect.
Among the events that each year attract a huge audience are the parade of allegorical floats, memorable works built by papier-mâché masters with a perfect balance between tradition and technological innovation, and the Parade of Wonders, a one-of-a-kind event of the Carnival.
The Parade of Wonders involves over three thousand school children and takes place on the first Sunday of Carnival. If children, with their liveliness and joy, are the only protagonists of this unique gathering, in the shadows for several weeks, teachers and parents exchange views each other in order to decide the theme of the event, using a lot of imagination and the most different materials, from papier-mâché to tulle, from organza to paper, plastic and glass, to give shape to fancy dresses and masks. In short, it is a general mobilisation of families, schools and the entire city, but to welcome "Ze Pèppe Carnevèle" we do this and more!