Each July in the northern autonomous region of Navarre in Spain the hold the Fiesta of San Fermin, which would possible remain a good local festival except for one event that has become internationally famous thanks to Ernest Hemingway writing about it back in the 1920s.
That part of the fiesta is called the Running of the Bulls, which takes place in the town of Pamplona, a spectacle for which thousands of people try to outrun the bulls, although many people are still injured when they fail to avoid the razor sharp horns of the bulls which attack them.
Thanks to Hemingway, these days thousands of people from all over the world descend on Pamplona, which dresses up in traditional red and white colours. You need to be fit for the fiesta which for nine days the streets turn into a feast of friendship, joy, music and non-stop partying.
The fiesta has been celebrated since the 12th century and includes three elements: a celebration of the local patron saint San Fermin, the opportunity to hold trade fairs, and a celebration of bullfighting, that brutal, bloodthirsty sport which is totally unfair to the bull.
Although the Running of the Bulls is the best known event, there are many other elements included in the fiesta. The Chupinazo heralds the beginning of the fiesta when thousands gather in the City Hall Square to witness the lighting of the rocket which announces that the fiesta has begun and the partying starts.
There is the religious component of vespers which are held in the church of San Lorenzo where sacred music is sung. ON the second day there is a procession through the streets for which a large crowd accompanies the image of San Fermin along a route in the Old Part of Pamplona.
Those who party throughout the night may not appreciate the Dianas, for which a loud marching band begins its march through the streets at 6.45am to wake them up to prepare for the day’s activities.
The march of the giants is another important event during which huge papier-mache figures, some towering over four metres in height, are paraded down a multitude of streets.
The highlight of fiesta though is the Encierro which was born from need: getting the bulls from outside the city into the bullring. It starts at the corral in Calle Santo Domingo at 8am when two rockets are set off and the bulls are let go to charge behind the runners for 825 metres, the distance between the corral and the bullring.
Despite this being the most famous event in Pamplona, the run only lasts about four minutes, although it is four minutes of sheer chaos, colour, excitement and drama.
Throughout the rest of the festival there are parades, music, concerts, a funfair, stalls and official speeches and celebrations, making the San Fermin Fiesta one of the most popular public events in Spain.