PAMPLONA, Spain (Reuters) – Party-goers and bull-running fans packed the main square in Pamplona on Saturday to cheer the launch of a firecracker which marks the start of the northern Spanish city’s annual San Fermin festival.
Decked out in white t-shirts and trousers stained pink by the wine that flows freely at the festival, the crowd danced and waved traditional red handkerchiefs bearing the image of the local patron saint.
The “chupinazo” rocket fizzed into the sky at midday (1000 GMT), officially opening festivities during which specially bred bulls chase runners through an 800-metre (0.5 mile) stretch of narrow streets each morning at 8 a.m (0600 GMT).
Over one million people attend the festival each year, bringing a hefty contribution to the local economy.
One of several bull-running events in Spain, the festival regularly ignites debate about the treatment of animals.
Protesters with fake spears protruding from their backs took to the streets on Friday to highlight what they see as animal cruelty.
(Reporting by Susana Vera and Jon Nazca; writing by Isla Binnie; editing by Jason Neely)