SOFIA, June 5 (Xinhua) -- The 113th Rose Festival, the biggest event dedicated to the aromatic plant in Bulgaria, was held on Sunday in the town of Kazanlak in the heart of the Valley of Roses.
More than 7,000 students, athletes, musicians, dancers and actors participated in the festive activities, which were attended by high Bulgarian officials, many diplomats, and tourists from around the world.
Traditionally, the festival began with a rose-picking ritual at a rose farm on the town's outskirts.
Bulgarian Minister of Tourism Nikolina Angelkova said over 220,000 tourists visited the Rose Valley last year, and she hoped that this year the number would be even larger.
Angelkova added that according to overseas marketing surveys, Rose is the symbol mostly associated with Bulgaria. That is why, she has sought to promote the Rose Festival and the attractions that the region can offer to foreign tourists, she said.
The country's Minister of Agriculture and Food Desislava Taneva, who also attended the event, called it "a feast of the beauty."
Taneva said she was proud to announce that Bulgaria is a world leader in the production of rose oil, and this year the country reported 2,500-decare increase in the areas planted with oil-bearing rose.
Just after the rose-picking ritual, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov specially came to cut the ribbon of the new home of the Museum of the Rose in Kazanlak, which presents Bulgarian tradition, innovation and success in growing roses and rose oil production.
While addressing the ceremony, Borissov said the museum would show the Bulgarians and the thousands of tourists that "rose oil is the most glorious thing in the world."
Later on, a festive parade involving from folklore groups to majorettes to children passed through the streets of the town, with a "Rose Queen" playing a central role.
This year's Rose Queen, Joanna Shishkova, was traditionally selected from among high school graduates, whose youth and natural beauty are associated with the uniqueness of Kazanlak rose oil.
Industry professionals also attended the festival.
Mihail Mihaylov, CEO of Bulgarian Organiroze Ltd., told Xinhua that last year it established a joint venture with a company from Guangdong province, China. The joint venture owns about 1,000-decare rose plantations, rose oil and rosewater distillery, and is currently building a factory for the production of Bulgarian rose facial masks.
He said he believes that the joint venture would have a bright future by selling its products not only to European but also to Chinese markets.
Liang Hongli, his Chinese partner, said in turn she expects the joint venture would deliver good rosewater and facial masks to the Chinese market.