Is there a specific day\week for the Golden Eagle festival?
Here is it just listed as Sep-Oct
Bad luck: this year it was Oct 1st & 2nd (today).
Has anyone actually been? It does sound pretty exotic:
The first day of the Golden Eagle Festival begins with a parade of eagle hunters on horseback with their eagles. As the competitions begin, the hunters display their elaborate hunting costumes and accessories. In the afternoon, the eagles are judged for their speed and agility, as the birds are released from a cliff and swoop down to land on the arms of the hunters below.
Day 2 - the eagles, released from the cliff, chase fox skins dragged by their owner on horseback—a feat of speed and technique. Later, the eagle hunters compete in a contest of their riding skills. Festival winners are announced. about 9 years ago
There were two festivals in the past (they are run by tourism companies but attended by eagle hunters from all over the province), maybe they still are as I found one was on Oct 2nd and 3rd. It is always in the first week or so although dates vary each year.
I have been back in 2004 - it is a great experience. You get to see all the things that Simon has mentioned - there are veteran trainers with their proteges. They also have kokpar tournaments, where men wrestle over a goat skin by horseback - it gets quite intense and is an amazing show of horsemanship as well as physical strength. There are also traders selling rugs, food etc. Best way to see the festival? Hire a horse from a local so you can cover more ground and keep up with the action!
People don't stay at the festival site - they stay in town (Olgii) or with friends nearby. Some of my pictures will give you a flavour: http://www.flickr.com/photos/marnova/sets/1549244/ about 9 years ago