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Fireworks dispays during the show feature a ship (the frigate Shtandart) with red sails
Crowd at Nevsky prospect, gathering for the show (2008)
Bridge traffic after the celebration, which ends at 1:00 in the morning

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 every summer. The tradition is highly popular for its spectacular fireworks, numerous music concerts and a massive water show. More than one million people attended the Scarlet Sails show celebrating the end of the 2007 school year.[1] In 2010 public attendance grew to 3 million, with entertainers including such stars as the Cirque du Soleil, Mariinsky Ballet and Antonio Banderas.[2]

This tradition began after World War II ended in 1945 - 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[by whom?] to update the rusty revolutionary propaganda, the "Scarlet Sails" tradition eventually[when?] 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 1961 release of the film Scarlet Sails boosted the popularity both of the book and of the tradition.


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