Saturday, October 04, 2014

Twenty-Five Years After: The Alcúdia Fair

On the fourth and fifth of November 1989, Alcudia held its first annual autumn fair. Or was it the first? The October 1989 edition of the "Badia d'Alcúdia" magazine said that "there will be those who remember when Alcúdia used to have a fair in times gone by". Unfortunately, no one who I have spoken to seems to be able to remember. Not now anyway. Let's just say that there was at some unknown time in the past a different fair, but whether it bore any great resemblance to the one that was inaugurated in 1989, who can tell.

The magazine spoke of the hope that the fair would continue over the following years, which of course it has, and explained that all the major houses of the island's industry - machinery, car sales and hospitality (all the major houses?) - had shown an interest in participating in the fair. It went on to say that it was hoped that the next fair would feature animals other than those in pens (like pigs one presumes) and that the fair would provide a good opportunity to promote tourism, though it added that it was taking place in the season called "baja", i.e. low.

Twenty-five years later, the fair still has its machinery - of the agricultural variety. It still has cars and, as part of a very much wider business element, it still has its hospitality industry. Animals not kept in pens there are, such as horses and dogs. And the more observant among you will realise that the fair now takes place a month earlier than it did in 1989. The start of October is still officially "the season", but it is "low". It's a question of definition but seasonal lowness seems to have crept forward over the years. The first week of November would now be "off", as in all but non-existent. 

Apart from the range of exhibitors, the 1989 fair didn't really offer a great deal more. It was only over the two days as opposed to the three (well, more like two and a half) that there are now, and the entertainment didn't kick off until four in the afternoon on the Saturday when there was a street procession with the local band of drums and cornets. That, apart from some kiddies' entertainment, was it for the Saturday. The Sunday wasn't that much more exciting, though they used then to fire off rockets at nine in the morning, which they now don't. There was another procession, the inevitable arrival of the local dignitaries (a not-to-be-missed occasion at any fair or fiesta) and some folk dance. And that was your lot.

The programme that the magazine listed was, however, peculiar in that when it mentioned the children's party and the processions it didn't make any reference to what are now very established "traditions". In 1988, Alcúdia's new giants - L'amo de Jaume Panxa-roja and Madò Aina - had arrived, thus reviving a tradition of giants in the town that had stretched back to the seventeenth century. Also in 1988, the cultural association Sarau Alcudienc, who performed the folk dance in 1989 and who were also involved with the giants' revival, had conceived the big heads S'Estol del Rei en Jaume (the King James show), a series of characters based on, among others, Jaume I the Conqueror and the mediaeval polymath Ramon Llull. These characters have always been the main attraction of the fair's children's party.

The giants would have been in at least one procession, so would have been the town's pipers, also not mentioned. Yet, there were no specific references to them or to the big heads. It is curious, but there again in 1989 neither the giants nor the big heads were "traditions" as such. Or maybe it was the case that "culture" wasn't made so much of as it now is. But this would also be curious as Sarau Alcudienc had by that time been in existence for over ten years and was to the fore in promoting Alcúdia and Mallorcan culture, as it still is.

Why was the programme silent on what are now icons of the local culture? Maybe it was just a simple case of there not having been space in the magazine to include them. Or maybe in 1989 it was the fair - the exhibitors - which were thought to matter more. They were and are extremely important - there couldn't have been a fair without them - while perhaps in 1989 the fair was not looked upon, as it is now, as an occasion when there is a blurring between the fair as a trade show and the fair as an extension of the fiesta.

* Photo of S'Estol del Rei en Jaume from

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