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Spanish Secrets: Contrasting Carnivals

Craig Briggs contrasts two carnivals, one held in sunshine, the other in rain - but both of them filled with joy and a sense of fun.

Our first experience of carnival was five years ago on the sub- tropical Canaries island of Lanzarote. The events took place in the islands' capital, Arrecife.

Car parking was well organised by the local police, only a short walk from the main events.

The harbour road through the town was cordoned off to traffic. This would form the parade route.

By the time it started, thousands of people, cameras at the ready, lined that route.

Leading the parade was a smartly-dressed marching band, playing a unique mix of Latino, African and jazz music - marching with a samba spring in their step and dancing with their instruments in complete unison.

This was followed by beautifully designed and built self-propelling floats.

Extravagant, Hollywood scale fantasy islands moving slowly down the street.

Each float had its own unique theme, thronged with happy people wearing spectacular costumes, smiling, laughing and dancing.

Between each float came different types of bands, or exotic scantily clad dancing groups.

Interspersed with these were circus acts: clowns, acrobats and magicians, all playing to the now excited crowds.

Our first experience of carnival here in Galicia, was somewhat different.

Ferreira de Panton is a small and friendly village in the heart of Galicia.

Unlike sub tropical Lanzarote, the weather in February is less predictable. For sure it will be cold, but that could be anywhere from +7 to -3 degrees.

It can also be wet. This was the case on our first carnival. It was so wet that we didn't think the event would go ahead. We soon knew that it would.

It wasn't until we heard the sound of music that we decided, umbrella in hand, to walk to the end of our road to see what was happening.

A lone policeman was standing in the middle of a side street preventing a car, or maybe two, from entering the main street through the village.

The procession was led by a soddened uniformed band made up of local children of all shapes and sizes. They were equipped with various instruments, playing what sounded like different tunes in complete disharmony.

This was followed by a tractor pulling a trailer.

In the best traditions of Blue Peter, the trailer had been thinly disguised, using an empty egg box, the inside of a toilet roll, a Fairy liquid bottle and the obligatory sticky- backed plastic.

But as to what it was meant to represent - I've no idea!

Behind this came a bedraggled procession of people wearing strange outfits.

It's quite amazing what can be achieved with a pair of Wellington boots, a black bin liner with arm holes cut out in it, and some black boot polish.

One “decorated’’ creature danced across to Melanie. With a look of apprehension and sheer fright on her face, she was pulled into the street for an impromptu dance.

The two events could have been staged on different planets. The indisputable similarities were the enthusiasm, joy and sense of fun from both participants and spectators alike.

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