The National Sulky Festival

Simoca renders homage to this traditional two-wheeled vehicle.

Bonnie Tucker / FST
In big cities, everyone who is not a harness racing fan or into antique carriage driving tends to think that horse-drawn conveyances are symbols of underdevelopment. The people of Simoca, a bastion of folk music and rural tradition in southeastern Tucumán, don’t see it that way. In this town of 8,000 inhabitants, the popular Argentine version of the sulky – a light, two-wheeled, one-horse carriage with a single seat for two passengers – has been awarded a monument. Hand-crafting these vehicles is considered a fine art, and using them as a means of transportation is an affirmation of local culture. On Saturdays, when Simoca’s colorful outdoor market is in full swing, many of them ply the streets of the town, which is a mere 50 km from the provincial capital.

In Argentina there are still two kinds of sulkies: the miniscule ones used in races, and the heftier working vehicles in which common people get about in the countryside. The latter are made in Simoca.
Traditionally, a “sulky” seats just one person – its name is an English adjective that refers to the fact that it is for a “sulky” driver who likes to be alone. In Anglo-Saxon countries, all kinds of races with animals (horses, camels, greyhounds and ostriches, among others) have captivated spectators for the past two centuries. Among these events are harness races featuring trotting horses whose drivers occupy tiny, lightweight single-seat racing sulkies.

Until the mid-20th century, Argentine country doctors still used the working version of the vehicle to call on patients who lived along dirt backroads. And nowadays, many poor farmers and other people who live along roads that have yet to be paved, still use working sulkies to take kids to school and do shopping and other business in town. So the seat of a working sulky seats more than one.
Simoca sulkies are made entirely of wood, with wooden or metal wheels, and are painted bright colors. This makes them the delight of tourists who can buy rides on the weekends, or during the National Sulky Festival, which this year takes place on December 12.

At 8pm, hundreds of sulkies, as well as a few old-time wagons and ox carts, will parade through the city streets, some of them bearing the girls who will compete for the festival queen title. The folk music festival will begin at 10pm.

PHOTO CRÉDITOS: Detail of the back of a sulky seat in Simoca, Racing sulkies of the 19th and 21st centuries, as seen by US artist Nicholas Winfield Scott Leighton (1849-1898), and by Google images, respectively A sulky parked on a back street in Simoca,