Benidorm lights up

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Irena Bodnarec www.benidor­mal­lyear­

Benidorm's fi­es­tas start to­day (Fri­day) and end with the fire­work dis­play on Poniente beach on Wed­nes­day. This is fol­lowed by the un­of­fi­cial Bri­tish fancy dress day on Thurs­day.

Fi­esta time!

As one fi­esta fin­ishes – Al­faz an­other be­gins, in Benidorm and tonight at 18.00, the Fi­esta Queens will turn on the lights to mark the be­gin­ning of the cel­e­bra­tions. Af­ter that, they will all head to the fun­fair – lo­cated by the bull­ring to of­fi­cially open it and at 22.00 all the penyas will pa­rade down Calle Ruzafa – and so ends day one of the Benidorm Fi­esta!

Al­most ev­ery town in Spain has a fi­esta, which in fact is a cel­e­bra­tion of the lo­cal pa­tron Saint - and for Benidorm that is "La Vir­gin del Sufra­gio". Re­li­gion plays a ma­jor part of the fi­esta and al­most ev­ery day there will be a mass at the San Jaime church - with the dis­tinc­tive blue doomed roof at the top of the old town.

On Satur­day, there will be a mass start­ing at 10.00 in the San Jaime church and at 11.45 the tra­di­tional “Open­ing of the church doors” fol­lowed by a huge aerial bom­bard­ment of fire­works (many very loud bangs) from the Mi­rador to of­fi­cially mark the start of the fi­esta. The fire­men will be out in force, ready to spring into ac­tion if needed. Ev­ery­one then marches down to the town hall square led by the fi­esta queens and bands. At 18.00 there will a solemn pro­ces­sion and flower of­fer­ing, which will re­sult in the en­tire front of the San Jaime church cov­ered in beau­ti­ful flow­ers – a very long process but well worth wit­ness­ing. The florists are cer­tainly quids in as sev­eral hun­dred bou­quets are used, and then once that has fin­ished there is a fan­tas­tic fire­work dis­play let off at the Mi­rador. From mid­night on­wards there will be live bands play­ing at the town hall square. The streets of the old town will come to life af­ter mid­night - just walk around and you will see lo­cals par­ty­ing in their "penyas”, the place to ex­pe­ri­ence some true Span­ish fes­tiv­i­ties. Penyas are part of the cul­ture here in Spain - the best way to de­scribe them is lit­tle clubs or groups of friends who fundraise through­out the year to fi­nance the an­nual fi­esta. They take part in the pa­rades and some of the money goes to­wards the cos­tumes, but the rest is for drink­ing and eat­ing! The penya base is usu­ally some­one’s garage or empty shop and the own­ers make a packet rent­ing them out - charg­ing hun­dreds of eu­ros for the week. There are cash prizes for the best-dec­o­rated street and penya base so a lot of thought goes into it. Each day, at 2pm mas­cle­tás are let off – enor­mous and very loud fire­crack­ers.

Chil­dren are an in­te­gral part of the fi­es­tas here and stay up late, par­ty­ing with their par­ents and pre­par­ing for the years of fi­es­tas that lie ahead for them!

Sun­day co­in­cides with our Re­mem­brance Sun­day and there will be an "Act of Re­mem­brance" start­ing at 11.00 at Ci­u­dad Pa­tri­cia by the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion - it is not a re­li­gious ser­vice but there will be a twominute si­lence at 12 noon. Back to the fi­esta agenda and at 19.00 there will be a solemn pro­ces- sion through the streets of the old town fin­ish­ing at the church. A band will be play­ing at the town hall square from 23.00 then at 02:00 – yes re­ally, the mad­ness of Cor­refocs... some­thing that most def­i­nitely would not pass the Health & Safety back in the UK! It is ba­si­cally a mov­ing fire­work dis­play that weaves in and out of the crowds on the streets of the old town, start­ing at the town hall and fin­ish­ing at the Dove Park. If you do de­cide to go then wear some­thing with sleeves as you may be hit by sparks com­ing off the fire­works.

On Tues­day 14 at 19.00 it is the Hu­mor­ous Fancy Dress Pa­rade down the Avenida Ruzafa and Calle Gambo, with each of the penyas choos­ing a theme - of­ten they are po­lit­i­cal car­i­ca­tures of the "Spit­ting Im­age" type and they com­pete for a €1,000 euro prize, so as you can imag­ine a lot of ef­fort goes into them.

Wed­nes­day 15 is the fi­nal day of the fi­esta cel­e­bra­tion - at 18.00 there is a grand float pro­ces­sion start­ing at Dove Park, mak­ing its way down the Avenida Ruzafa and fi­nally down the Calle Gambo - sweets will be thrown from the floats so go armed with bags like the Span­ish!

Then the fi­nal act is the spec­tac­u­lar fire­work dis­play, which is lit from the Poniente beach (Dove park end) usu­ally around 20.30/21.00 - crowds tend to head up to the Mi­rador af­ter the pa­rade, where you get a fan­tas­tic view and at­mos­phere, with many lo­cals tak­ing bot­tles of cava to cel­e­brate.

Fi­nally, the day af­ter - Thurs­day 16, is the long awaited Bri­tish Fancy Dress Day, when lit­er­ally thou­sands de­scend on the Square and Calle Gerona dressed in a va­ri­ety of cos­tumes – any­thing goes on this day!

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