SPAIN is known for its quirky fiestas that go way beyond drinks and music with friends in the town square.
While the town of Buñol in Valencia celebrates its annual “La Tomatina” tomato fight and Pamplona hosts the running of the bulls – where participants are sometimes gored and 16 have been killed since records began in 1910 – the spa town of Lanjaron, in the Alpujarra of Granada, is famous for its crazy water race that takes place every year on the night of June 23, to coincide with the holy day of San Juan.
One of Andalucia’s most popular fiestas, the Lanjaron Water Race attracts people from far and wide, who arrive by coach to complete a 1.5km course through the town center, while being doused with water cold by municipal fire hoses.
It is said that a million liters of water can be deposited during the hour-long race, which attracts 15,000 people when it falls on a Friday or Saturday evening, ie on non-working days. This year, it attracted 8,000, according to Lanjaron town hall. Due to its popularity, guests must purchase a wristband for 5th to participate – a measure introduced in 2017 for crowd control.
The mass water race begins at the stroke of midnight and ends at 1am. A much gentler children’s water run occurs during the day, attracting many local families.
Always a colorful sight, San Juan’s water fight was sorely missed during the two years of the pandemic, when people weren’t allowed to gather en masse.
This year, sheltered from pandemic restrictions, townspeople celebrated their holiday in style, with groups of twenty-somethings rolling buckets of ‘tinto de verano’ and ‘sangria’, and old people dancing on the street with friends and sharing plates of ‘arroz’. Visitors got into the spirit of the event, the town’s bars and restaurants came alive before the big boat race.
Local businesses told the Olive press they were particularly busy. Hotel Andalucia’s receptionist said she hadn’t stopped checking in guests all day, while Bernard Campos of Mundo de Vinylo had his hands full printing out fiesta-related t-shirts. He said: “Lanjarón’s businesses are very happy to be back to normal.”
Said Verna Coggins, a resident of Cadiar, who traveled to Lanjaron to see the tribal drummers, who appeared ahead of the main event, said: “It’s great to see such a community spirit, now that the pandemic is over, and we can have our parties again. It looks like a typical Spanish fiesta right now, but I’m sure that will change later!
Alistair Camberlin, who lives in central Lanjaron, said: “As a local, June is my favorite time of year because everyone comes together to celebrate one of the best fiestas in Spain. .”
Estate agent Matthew Wood said: “It’s great to see the true spirit of Lanajron in full swing. The event is well organized and puts Lanajron on the tourism map. These events attract thousands of people and showcase the city’s assets.
At the stroke of midnight, while some hid from the water frolic madness – behind the carefully sealed doors of the city’s various hotels and private properties – others donned bathing suits or raincoats to run down the main street . Some had disguised themselves as nuns and priests. Chants of ‘Seven Nation Army’ and ‘Mucho Agua’ echoed through the city, as revelers made their way to the plaza, to enjoy DJs during a ‘Water Party’ which continued with music techno until dawn.
In addition to the famous water fight, other attractions of the Feast of San Juan in Lanjaron include the “Publica” (parade of disguises), which always takes place on Saturdays, a competition of water jets in the street main and a challenge to climb a greasy pole to dislodge a ‘jamon serrano’.
This year, Lanjaron also held an exhibition of historic fiesta posters at the Museo de Agua, down town. The party was born in 1979 and was declared Andalusian Party of Tourist Interest in 2018.