This article studies the economic value and roles of rural festivals. The authors investigate the festivals of 'Kuruma-ichi' and 'Suishamatsuri' in the Yamane area of Kuji city, Iwate prefecture, Japan. They estimate a travel demand model to infer the value of these festivals for visitors and apply the chi-square automatic interaction detection (CHAID) method to analyse the reasons for visiting. The results indicate that the consumer surplus of these festivals is ¥3,627 (US$45.3) for a tourist per trip. From the CHAID analysis it follows that the annual frequency of visits depends on the opportunity for exchange among tourists and the local residents. It appears that the festivals are important occasions for the gathering of former residents in this depopulated and aged mountainous area.