Fiestas, dates and muddles in the Soller Valley

Written by Shirley Roberts
Photographs by Rachel Fox

Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin
on Tuesday 21st March 2017

The countdown begins to Easter and then the monthly fiestas in the Soller Valley.  So much work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that all events are fun and safe.  The irritation factor from the callers to Sollerweb is all about definite dates for events.  Our Town Hall have a plan of projected dates for all events but they are subject to change because of things outside their control.  For instance, when the Firo date for this year was being arranged (which is usually on the second Monday in May) they had to take into account the Mayday Bank holiday which is on the first Monday of May this year.  The powers that be decided that two consecutive Bank holidays in the Soller Valley in May was too much so they changed the Firo date to Monday 15th May 2017. The early aeroplane bookers have been taken by surprise on this one and there is a lot of moaning and threatening to sue.
The Firo is a hugely popular event but at heart it is a local celebration to which visitors are welcome.  The fact that the date change only emerged in the past few months is just life as far as the planners are concerned.  This is not part of the tourist brief that needs planning years in advance.
Exactly the same problem is happening while plans are being made for the St Bartholomew Fiesta in August.  This is Soller’s patron saint and the City celebrates with ten days of events from the Nit of Art to the spectacular fight over good over evil and the Fire run.  It is the Fire run that everyone wants the date of in advance to book those flights.  Last year this date was moved to the weekend and this caused a great fuss.  At present no-one is telling us the date because it quite simply hasn’t been fixed yet. I have sympathy with people trying to book their holidays to coincide with events but I confess to losing a little patience with those who think that this is a theme park with a five-year plan.  This is Soller folks not Disneyland and decisions are made when they are made.

The celebrations of the Soller Valley are monthly and there is always a date to work towards if you are in the know.  The purpose of is to to keep the calendar updated the minute that information is released.  Our biggest problem is the fundamental difference here between cultural and commercial fiestas and the time frame for their creation.  Cultural Fiestas all follow an expected date and style and would happen if there were visitors in the City or not. The dates for these can be loosely set unless you have a funny May like this year.  Commercial Fiestas come out of the blue with sometimes only a couple of weeks warning.  This is because the decision makers are constantly looking for ways to bring tourists and money into the City and they take their opportunities when they get them.  So the complaint from visitors is that they would have liked to be at  the Swing or the Prawn Fiesta but they weren’t given enough notice. These great events are unlikely to have more than a months notice and you are just lucky if you happen to be here when they take place.

The rhythms of life in the Soller Valley is what makes it a very comforting place to be. The church calendar gives us observances and traditions that happen whether we are religious or not and these are augmented by history.  The two fiestas that bring back Sollerics from all over the world are the historical Firo and St Bartholomew celebrations.  Both of them last a week each with gallery openings, book launches, concerts and daily events.  The returners to the Valley often have homes here and the place becomes a huge celebration of families and friends reconnecting. Tourists often wonder what is going on and what these parties are that they don’t seem to have received an invitation to. This is where the history box of Soller comes into play and the fact that over 70% of Soller families have French relations who claim their Solleric identity.  The melting pot of the place is on parade in these local fiestas and underline what a mixture it all is.  Tourists and visitors are always very welcome to be part of Soller’s celebrations and all that is asked is a little respect for the event and all they represent to local people.

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