Latvia blondes hold festival to beat recession blues

Blonde women march through Riga, Latvia, 29 May There are parties, concerts and a Marilyn Monroe lookalike competition

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Hundreds of blonde Latvian women have been marching through the capital Riga to try to bolster the national spirit in time of recession.

Most of the participants dressed in pink and wore high heels.

The blonde parade began last year and was planned as a one-off but it is back by popular demand and is now a two-day festival.

Latvia has been hit badly by recession. Its economy shrank by 18% in 2009 and it has Europe's highest unemployment.

'Proud to be blonde'

The BBC's Damien McGuinness, who attended the festival, says that this might not be everyone's idea of female emancipation but if the aim was to bring a smile to recession-weary Latvians, the idea certainly worked.

He says there are parties, concerts and a Marilyn Monroe lookalike competition.

Money collected from the event will go to Latvian charities.

Marika Gederte, president of the Latvian Association of Blondes, told the BBC the idea came out of the economic gloom.

"I was so tired, you know, every day opening the computer and reading the newspapers and just reading about problems. We decided... let's do something nice. And I asked myself the question: what can I do for my country? And this is what I did... We are very proud to be blonde."

Next year, our correspondent says, Riga's blonde ambitions are even bigger, with a blonde carnival planned - like Rio, just a little bit blonder.

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