Considered one of the largest and most popular summer festivals on Spain's stunning island of Menorca, the Sant Jaume Festival is held for three big days and nights each year July 24-26 in Es Castell. While most of the action takes place in the town square and at the town's harbors, the festivities spill out over the entire town with every local resident and business fully participating. Everyone is welcome to this family friendly event that features dancing horses, parades, live entertainment and an abundance of activities and events for those of all ages.
This festival was celebrated by the locals long before visitors from around the world learned of its existence and were invited to join in the fun. It dates all the way back to 1786 when the townspeople first requested permission to honor their patron saint, Sant Jaume, with a yearly festival that was always to be celebrated during the same three days in July. That permission was granted, and it started out as a huge feast and town celebration that completely revolved around the church. It still holds to its religious origins today, but the festival has grown every year into a full-scale celebration.
There's no doubt that the well-trained horses and their proud costumed riders are the stars of this festival, and they do a lot more than trot through the parade. One of the horse-related highlights is the races, and everyone cheers for their favorite as two riders race along a city street. The Jaleos are definitely a sight that is not to be missed as the riders coax their horses up on their back legs to jump about and dance to the music while the crowd dances around them, and the Cargols provide another opportunity for the horses to proudly prance around in large circles.
In addition to the horses, the talented band of Ciutadella marches in the main parade and stops at several points to put on an outstanding performance for the crowd. Other parade highlights include the marching big-headed giants, which are always a huge hit among children of all ages.
The religious aspects of this festival are never forgotten, and there is a religious ceremony in honor of Sant Jaume in the Church of Parroquial de Roser. Later, at the same church, the Missa Solemne mass is held.
Part of the festival fun for the children is the fair that offers a nice selection of carnival rides and games that make it easy for the little ones to win a prize of their very own. There is also a trampoline area, huge bouncy castles and several other fun activities for the youngsters.
While area restaurants offer festival deals throughout the day, they shut their doors at night to provide something really special. Many restaurants set up bars along the street to sell beer while party music gets everyone's feet moving for some fun street dancing. You'll also find food vendors peppered throughout the streets selling traditional fiesta snacks and other fun foods, and live musical entertainment is typically going on in the town square and at both harbors during each evening of the festival.
Last Night Celebrations
This festival always closes out on a high note, and visitors may expect to enjoy several live outdoor concerts that include jazz, classical and a special youth concert. As the clock strikes midnight, a spectacular fireworks display will be unleashed into the night sky over the Mediterranean Sea, and that signals the end of the festival for another year.