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!