On the eve of its popular San Fermin festival, Pamplona has everything ready for the enjoyment and excitement of some 200,000 locals plus thousands attracted from all parts of Spain and all over the world.
Sunday at noon the “chupinazo” rocket will blast off from the central balcony of city hall to mark the beginning of the festival, which will continue until July 14.
The best-known event each morning is the running of the bulls through the streets of Pamplona, with the participation of locals and foreigners who run as close to the animals’ deadly horns as they dare.
The tense and adrenaline-fueled runs are dangerous because some people take part in them after all-night drinking binges, which make them reckless and more likely to get too close to animals that weigh in excess of 500 kilos (1,100 pounds).
The bulls are run to the Pamplona bullring where in the afternoon they will face the bullfighters.
The San Fermin festival as it is known today began in the year 1590, not lasting as long as it does now but even then it mixed revelry with religion as it does today.
Its precursors go back to the 12th century, when medieval Pamplona celebrated commercial fairs at the beginning of summer.
The festival is in honor of St. Fermin, the first bishop of Pamplona, decapitated in the 3rd century in Amiens, France. The event has featured bullfights since the 14th century.
The typical white and red dress of the festival brightens the city for eight days, and even people from elsewhere in the world wear it.
City hall has made a study according to which visitors who come to Pamplona for San Fermin spend an average of 110 euros (some $150) a day.
The average visitor to the festivities comes by car for three days and, in the majority of cases, remains two days in Pamplona and spends a third of the time on an excursion around the area.
Though it’s basically about the bulls, the San Fermin festival this year will offer 443 events, approximately one every half-hour, programmed by the Pamplona city hall, which invests close to 1 million euros ($1.36 million) in the festival.
The 400-year-old festival was popularized by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.”