In Sanfermines the fiesta mainly occurs outdoors. Spontaneity blends with the official programme of events. Anywhere in the centre of Pamplona, and at any hour, you will find a great variety of events for all tastes and age groups: the encierro for the boldest, the procession of San Fermín for the most devout, the Gigantes and carnival figures for both kids and parents...
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The rocket that inaugurates the fiesta of San Fermín is known as the chupinazo. At 12 noon on July 6th thousands of people fill City Hall Square to overflowing. With great expectation, accompanied by chants, shouting and cheering, the crowd dressed in red and white waits for a member of the City Council to light the fuse of the rocket. To the shout of "Pamploneses, Viva San Fermín Gora San Fermín!" the places erupts and thousands of red neck scarves are waved to welcome nine days of unparalleled fun.
The vísperas, the riau-riau and the procession
On July 6th at 8 p.m. vespers in honour of San Fermín are held in the church of San Lorenzo. They date back to the 15th century and involve a rich musical repertoire. This event is attended by the City Council in official dress. The councillors leave the City Hall and walk through the streets, accompanied by hundreds of young people, to the sound of the "Astrain Waltz”, whose chorus gave rise to the name “Riau- Riau”. In its early years the event lasted one hour, although with the passing of time it took longer – and was even interrupted – so it was suspended for several years.
July 7th is the festivity of San Fermín. The procession in honour of the saint takes place at 10 a.m.; it is a massively attended event that is very dear to the people of Pamplona. Together with the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, a large crowd accompanies the image of San Fermín along a route in the Old Part of Pamplona. It is a time for tradition and devotion. The image that is revered is a 15th-century wood carving with a silver coating that was added in 1687. In the oval on the image's chest there are reliquaries of San Fermín.
The dianas (literally, wake-up calls) involve a route followed by the city's band (La Pamplonesa) through the streets of the Old Quarter. At 6:45 a.m. the band leaves the City Hall and delights a varied audience consisting of people who have just got up, those who still have not gone to bed, or runners waiting for the encierro, among others.
Gigantes y cabezudos
The Comparsa de Gigantes y Cabezudos a whole 'court' of kings preceded by its entourage of carnival figures with big heads, kilikis and zaldikos (horse figures). There are 25 papier-mâché figures that follow different routes through the city every day.
The giants are the oldest figures. They date back to 1850 and reach a height of 4.2 metres above the dancer that carries them, and weigh between 59 and 64 kilos. They consist of four couples (King and Queen) that represent America, Africa, Europe and Asia, and they dance to the txistu (Basque flute) and the tabor.
The kilikis represent the councillors and their mission is to 'frighten' and entertain the youngsters. These six figures carry foam 'sticks' and playfully hit and chase after the little ones. They are known by such funny names as Coletas (ponytails), Patata(potato), Barbas (beardy), Verrugas (warts), Napoleón and Caravinagre (vinegar face).
The zaldikos ('horses' in Basque) are six papier-mâché figures carried by young men dressed in a red and gold suit. They also carry 'sticks'. The cabezudos (carnival figures with big heads) go in front of the giants are the most serious characters in the retinue. They draw attention thanks to their large heads, and their names are: Japonés (Japanese man), Japonesa (Japanese woman), Concejal (councillor), Abuela (grandmother) and Alcalde (Mayor).
The peñas are groups of friends who have formed social clubs and are stalwarts of the city's fiestas; indeed, they emerged for and as a result of the Sanfermines. They are most visible (and audible) during the bullfight. Their seats are on the 'sunny' side of the bullring, and their anthems, clothing, badges and banners give the bullring a special atmosphere. After the bullfight they all converge on the Plaza del Castillo, from where they set out on different routes through the streets of the Old Part of the city.
Their presence is not just restricted to the bullfight, their music and non-stop fun can be seen on the streets all day long and through a good part of the night. Their essential flag is their banner, which depicts different scenes from the life of the city in a humorous vein. Their clubs (in calle Jarauta and nearby streets) turn into excellent bars during the fiesta where you can drink, dance and have fun all round the clock.
There are 16 peñas. The oldest is La Única, founded in 1903. The others are Muthiko Alaiak, El Bullicio Pamplonés, La Jarana, Oberena, Aldapa, Anaitasuna, Los del Bronce, Irrintzi, Alegría de Iruña, Armonía Txantreana, Donibane, La Rotxa, 7 de Julio San Fermín, San Jorge and El Txarko.
Although the peñas were born for and as a result of the fiesta of San Fermín, their members get together and organise a number of gastronomic, cultural and sports events throughout the year.
Spectacles, music and concerts
Without doubt, in Sanfermines the fiesta belongs outdoors. You can enjoy an enormous range of shows and activities, many of them free of charge. These usually take place every year, but it is a good idea to look at the programme to find out the date and time of each one.
The mornings in the Sanfermines are also full of attractions. On July 6th there is a big folk festival in the Plaza de los Fueros. An exhibition of rural Basque sports is also held in the same square on different days. In the Media Luna park there are representations of Basque culture and every day at 8.30 p.m. there are dances and music from the casas regionales of Spain in the Bosquecillo (behind the Tres Reyes hotel). In the bullring, apart from the bullfights there are other events, with the corrida vasco-landesa (bullfighting in the French Basque-Landes style) and a competition of young recortadores (bull dodgers) that attract good crowds. In the Plaza de Conde Rodezno the children can enjoy the shows and games that are organised for them. Horse enthusiasts head for the fair that is held every July 7th.Obviously, the night holds a lot in store in terms of shows and displays: the toro de fuego (fire bull), dances, fireworks, concerts, etc. are some of the things that liven up the streets and squares of the centre of Pamplona at night.
Music can be heard everywhere in the city throughout the fiesta, and although most of it happens in an improvised way the official programme also attaches a lot of importance to concerts and verbenas (open-air dances). The City Council programmes concerts every day (except July 7th) in the Taconera gardens.
Of the morning concerts we would highlight the alarde de txistularis (display of Basque flute players). with pieces played by professional musicians. In this concert other instruments join the txistu, such as trumpets, horns, trombones, tubas and accordions.
The musical forms that take over the streets at night are endless, ranging from verbenas to open-air jazz and rock concerts by top artists.
The funfair, popularly known as 'Las Barracas' is located in a special site near the centre of the city. There are around one hundred fairground attractions in Sanfermines, ranging from roundabouts for the little ones, scarier rides for teenagers, bars and restaurants, stalls selling hurros, tómbolas, etc. It is an overwhelming atmosphere of colour and good fun.
At 11 p.m. from July 6th to 14th, when the fiesta is just starting its long night, a brilliant and noisy firework display takes place in the citadel that attracts tens of thousands of pamploneses and visitors. On July 7th, the Day of San Fermín, the firework display is accompanied by music. The best place to see it is the park of the Vuelta del Castillo, on whose soft grass many tired revellers stretch out to rest and enjoy the fireworks, and then carry on with the fiesta.
Pobre de mí
This is the last official event of the fiesta. The people of Pamplona converge on City Hall Square on July 14th holding candles to say goodbye to the fiesta at midnight and immediately start the countdown for the following year's Sanfermines!
The mayor, speaking from a balcony, officially 'closes' the fiesta and calls on everyone to come back for more fun next year, accompanied by a traca of noisy fireworks from the adjacent Plaza de los Burgos. Despite the fact that it is the last official act of the fiesta, the party continues right through the night.
The Pobre de mí takes its name from a song that is sung right through the night: "Pobre de mí, pobre de mí, que se han "acabao" the fiestas of San Fermín". (Poor me, poor me, the fiesta of San Fermín is over).
Access the website of the city of Pamplona, where you can watch videos of parties, following the closure and more direct.