In 1975 a group of enthusiasts of folk art came up with the idea of starting an international folklore festival in their hometown of Leuven. For the organisation of this event they could count on the support of Volkscultuur Vlaams-Brabant (council for folk culture in Flemish Brabant), de Leuvense Cultuurraad (the Cultural Board in Leuven), de Leuvense Gidsenbond (the Leuven Guide association), Leuvenement vzw (association for tourism in Leuven) and of course the city council of Leuven, that still considers the Leuvense Paasfeesten as the start of the touristic season.
Thanks to the success of the first edition of the Easter Festival the Leuvense Paasfeesten, the organisers thought it would be a good idea to organise this festival annually, thus a new non-profit organisation was born. This organisation has been, and still is the main organiser of the festival that takes place during the Easter Weekend.
Throughout the years many different formulas have been tried out and changes have been made to make the festival more appealing. One of the biggest changes and a leap to more brand awareness, was made in the year 1982. Since 1982 all activities would be held in a big, heated marquee on the Ladeuzeplein (one of the major squares in Leuven) . The Ladeuzeplein, however, was due to be reconstructed in 1990 because of which the festival could not take place there. In 1991 then, the committee of the festival decided to move to the multi-purpose sports and party hall, “De Rijschool”, which is located in the Rijschoolstraat. Until today most of the activities take place in this hall. Thanks to these changes and the collaboration of the local media, such as ROB-TV (a regional TV channel), Rondom (a regional newspaper) and regional additions to newspapers, the festival's brand got widely advertised; it became, and still is a well-known folk dance festival throughout Flanders.
When organising the festival, each year, the committee tries to find four foreign groups to take part in the festival. These groups often come from various corners of Europe and occasionally from other continents. Together with the groups from Leuven: ‘t Havermeuleke, Reuzegom and Rozemarijntje, they put up a good show and contribute to an Easter weekend filled with culture, fun and performances. Just about every country and region in Europe has attended the Easter Festival.
Many of the groups that come to the festival likewise have invited one of the groups from Leuven to take part in a festival in their own region. This creates a circuit of mutual exchange and friendship.
Important to know might be that the Leuvense Paasfeesten has been acknowledged as an official Folk Festival by CIOFF (International Council of Organisations of Folklore Festivals and Folk Arts). CIOFF is an international organisation that is associated with UNESCO. Next to promotional purposes, it is more of a moral support for the festival. As organiser of the festival, we take pride in knowing this.
Because of the growth of the organisation, the continued interest of the city council and new impulses from the Handelaarsverbond (association of shop owners) throughout the existence of the festival, a new, properly organised and professional structure needed to be adopted. Such annual events bring more colour, publicity and international renown to Leuven, while involving the local population and companies in the event.
After the fortieth edition of the Leuvense Paasfeesten in 2014 we decided that a change of direction was necessary. Ever since that change, people are working hard to give the festival a more modern look, such as to make it more attractive for younger people as well, to come and have a look and maybe try a dance or two. A new logo, an appealing catchphrase, a festival that captures the public imagination, all those things make the Paasfeesten what it is right now.