Last nights spectacular Cabalgata de los Reyes Magos in Murcia was more than just a parade of the Three Kings, it was a spectacle of magic, theater and entertainment, as befits an event in the Regions´capital.
It´s always deeply frustrating that all the Cabalgatas and major events all take place at the same time across the region, so where to go, which to choose, and which is the best is always a dilemma for those who have little allegiance for a local event or don´t have young children growing up in a local community.
From the perspective of foreigners, people who have only an outsiders point of view, we always tend to opt for the bigger parades, and are never disappointed, as the scale of the spectacle and the crowd enjoying it are as much of the essence of the event as the floats themselves.
It never ceases to amaze us where all these children have been hiding, as the streets are absolutely heaving with youngsters, all the seats sold out days in advance, and pavements standing 10 deep with generations jammed together, arms outstretched, waiting expectantly for the parade to fill the space between the crowds.
Many are armed with carrier bags, others with umbrellas to catch the sweets and toys, whilst many rely on tall parents to reach for the toys as they whizz through the air, scattered amongst showers of confetti which literally smother the crowd as the floats pass by.
On some floats toys and sweets are flung from above, whilst the best organised actually have big toy cannons which fire the toys into the air, ensuring that even those unfortunate enough to be at the back of the crowd don´t miss out on the goodies.
The floats all have security guards who hold the children back and stop them climbing up onto the actual floats, as well as making sure none of them accidentally end up underneath the moving floats, as they run up to the sources of the sweets, bags aloft, trying to get the booty.
As the floats pass, the children scrabble amongst the fallen confetti, scooping up the shining wrappers, cheeks bulging like little hamsters as they ferret around for the lollipops and packets containing sweet bracelets and games, plastered in confetti and shining stars, multicoloured moving dots in the semi darkness.
As with most things in life, location, location, location is a lesson best learnt early on, as those at the beginning of the route were given sweets sparingly, whereas those at the end of the route had carrier bags absolutely full and armfuls of toys, as, realising they were about to run out of route, the floats jettisoned great bags full of sweets off their sides, literally pushing them out of the store rooms in bulk, stock bags of lollipops splitting across the pavements, just too many for the children to collect, such was the volume.
In amongst the sweets were the entertainers, giants on stilts, ghostly white scarecrows which swooped and weaved amongst the crowds, astonishing acrobatic displays on stilts with jagged silver creatures screaming through the air as the crowd gasped in astonishment.
Luminous figures glowed ghostly in the semi dark, bending and twisting, plucking children from the crowd to hold them aloft to screams of appreciation from the ecstatic onlookers, ghostly musicians in period costume dousing the crowds with shimmering confetti, for all the world like a modern Mozart monster movie.
No parade would be complete without inflatable animals and monsters, and in this case it was explorers in an african jungle, with giant inflatable elephants charging the crowd much to the hysterical delight of the children who were nearly mown down in the stampede, a giant octopus, rhino and african chieftain, courtesy of the Terra natura wildlife park in Murcia.
It was quite amusing to see the elephants in action, as we´d actually found them one day in the most unlikely setting, training for these processions.
The core figures in these big parades are always trained actors and acrobats, as some of the feats they undertake would be way beyond most of us, and apparently it´s actually quite difficult to drive a charging giant inflatable elephant, so the actors go to fiesta school to perfect the techniques.
One day last winter, we were working along the coast from Aguilas to Mazarron, visiting each beach in the coastal stretch to photograph, check for access, signage , cleanliness and facilities as we always do before putting anything on the site, and ended up down in the little cove of Calnegre. As we got out of the car, we saw an enormous red inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex disappearing down the high street, rapidly followed by a giant chinese dragon and a couple of green dinosaurs.
Intrigued as to what was going on, we followed them and discovered a training school partaking in a fake fiesta parade down the main road, delighted children being pursued by dinosaurs and big pink elephants, menaced by cavemen and chasing after a wildly undulating chinese dragon, the whole thing orchestrated by a clown with a loudhailer on a bicycle.
The participants explained that they have to undertake several courses before being allowed anywhere near an inflatable monster and that learning to menace small children successfully took several weekends of intensive and dedicated practice!
Well they certainly put on a good show in Murcia last night.
At the end of the parade the Three Kings headed into Plaza Santo Domingo to empty the Royal post box which has been positioned in the square for the last couple of weeks, before shouldering their sacks and heading off into the municipal belen to pay their respects to the Baby Jesus before opening all the letters and delivering thousands of presents.
They´ll all be quite relieved to get back behind their desks in the council again tomorrow !
So if you didn´t go to the Three Kings last night, shame on you, put it in the diary for next year and go out. You won´t regret it!
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