The Fiesta in Tafalla, located 30 km south of Pamplona, runs from August 14-20 each year in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption (15th) and San Sebastián (16th ), Tafalla’s patron saints, with religious ceremonies, accompanied by dancers, pipers, txistularis, the giants and kilikis parading through the streets.
The next fiesta, with it’s own running of the bulls, will be in the medieval village of Sangüesa, to the east of Pamplona. The Fiestas de Sangüesa is celebrated each year from September 11-17, and is in honor their patron saint, San Sebastián.
Sangüesa, Tudela, Tafalla and Pamplona are the four Navarran towns where you can run with the bulls.
There are seventeen official Peñas, social clubs, in Pamplona, numbering from a few hundred members to more then a thousand,. Much like the Sociedades Gastronómicas, the members-only gastronomic societies in the Basque country, their main purpose is to get together in their clubhouses during the year to celebrate their culture and cuisine, but Pamplona’s Peñas also play an important role in the city’s world famous fiestas, the Fiesta de San Fermín and Feria del Toro de San Fermín, the running of the bulls.
The oldest Peña, “La Unica”, was founded at the turn of the 20th-century, in 1903, with the other Peñas forming during the ensuing years. Originally men-only clubs, like those in the Basque country, Pamplona’s Peñas now include the entire family, meaning the fiesta is no longer “the last bastion of the macho” as Hemingway once wrote.
The Peñas, an important part of the fiesta, have their own sections in the Plaza de Toros; part of tendido 5, all of tendidos 6 and 7, grada 5 and 7, and all of andanada 11, 12 and 13, which they fill every afternoon for the bullfights. Each has their own band, which tend to drown out the more traditional music played by the official city band located on the other side of the Plaza de Toros, in the shade. If you’ve never experienced a bullfight sitting near the Peñas, then you’ve never really experienced Sanfermines.
Pamplona’s Peñas have their favorite matadors, and for several years, until his recent retirement, it was Juan José Padilla (the pirate), one of Spain’s great matadors.
Most of the Peñas can be found in the old quarter along Calle Jarauta, where if you happen to venture at night, you’ll find they never sleep during fiesta.
Some people arrive early the morning of July 6 to get their favorite spot, but the Plaza Ayuntamiento really begins to fill up starting around 9:30 am as more people find their way and by noon the crowd fills the small plaza with more than 15,000 festival goers, with 10s of thousands more filling the streets leading to the plaza and several thousands more filling the Plaza del Castillo, the center of the fiesta, watching everything on the giant screens set up in the plaza. Most people are dressed in the traditional white and red, swaying back and forth as if in a giant mosh pit. Before long, most are covered from head to toe in cheap red wine.
As the morning progresses the intensity of the crowd grows as they await the clock atop the town hall to strike high noon when the first of several rockets, el chupinazo (txupinazo in Basque) will be fired from the balcony of the mayor’s office overlooking the town hall square. “Viva!”, Gora!” comes the cry, followed by ”Pamploneses, Pamplonesas, Viva San Fermín! Gora San Fermín!” The crowd erupts. The fiesta has begun.
If you plan on joining the crowd in the “mosh pit”, do not wear any clothes you value, do not wear sandals or carry a camera.This is also not the place for children. You and the children would be better off watching from the comfort of a balcony.