Origins, history, traditions, all you need to know

Built around a religious celebration on Sunday and the organization of bullfights (which, however, are no longer systematically organized as part of the holidays), Bayonne’s first “Great Summer Festivals”, as they were called in their beginnings, were first called in 1932, at the initiative of a group Friends of rugby players from Aviron Bayonnais who used to go to San Fermin in Pamplona, ​​Spain. Then the festival committee at the time and its president, Benjamin Gomez, decided on a program inspired by the Spanish holidays, to accompany the National Day celebrations on July 14. The mayor, Joseph Jarratt, and his municipal council endorse the concept and entrust the organization to the initiators.


Parade in Old Bayonne as part of the Great Summer Celebrations, in July 1948.

Southwest Archives

On July 13, 1932, cow races, street lanes, concerts, and Basque Pelota games followed, but above all, the cow races on the streets of Petit Bayonne followed each other. This day also features a flower car race and a car elegance contest in the Pauli Alleys. Bayonnaises and Bayonnais also attend the first Giants Walk, developed by Benjamin Gomez.

instant success

Despite the fickle weather, the success of these first festivities was immediate. He will not deny. Now included in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Bayonne Festivals have since celebrated the cultures of the Basque Country and Gascony for five days. It takes place from the last Wednesday of July to the following Sunday. In their 90 years of existence, they will have known only two periods of interruption: during the Second World War, of course, from 1940 to 1946, and then in 2020 and 2021, due to the Covid-19 epidemic.

Some of their original traditions disappeared over time, such as the vervain, which occurred in the halls and gave artisans and merchants the opportunity to decorate their stalls with more refinement. The same is true of the Adour regattas, the agricultural shows, the Place Saint-André, the lyrical performances given in the theater, the horse races harnessed at Saint-Esprit, the scrapbook fights …

Red and white, panda, calfskin, pelota, Karrikaldi, “paquito chocolatero” …

But most of them withstood, and sometimes even developed. So in 1932 there was only one panda. Errobiko Erroskilak, formed by young rugby players from Aviron Bayonnais. The second, Patsaros, was founded two decades later by Jacques Simonet, better known as “Coco”. This naughty café owner on rue Port-de-Castets had, among other things, the idea of ​​bringing together the beautiful Bayonne guys who frequent his establishment…and a few others, at Panda. Patsaros. Today, gangs are much more numerous, but there will never be enough of them.

Originally, the traditional colors of festival dress were blue and white. Blue, which came from workers’ clothing, was replaced by red, similar to the Pamplona festivals, where red and white were the official colours. Today, blue has almost disappeared in favor of “red and white,” but some purists still prefer to wear the original “blue and white,” the color of the local rugby club, Aveyron Bayonne.

Famous cow races, Basque power festival and pelota, thanks to the famous heroes who came to play epic games at Trinquet Moderne, have also been a part of the history of the festivities from the beginning. The 1990s saw the emergence of the phenomenon of famous associations ‘Pinas’, when Karrikaldi, the event celebrating Basque traditions, has seen thousands of singing and dancing festivals since 2005.

Then there’s the unmissable “paquito chocolatero.” In 2005, a world record with a length of 1,400 meters “paquito chocolatero” and 4,000 people was broken. It was beaten the following year with 5,100 participants with a length of 1700 meters, then in 2007, with 6000 people with a length of 2000 meters, and again in 2008, with 7,764 people with a length of 2588 meters.

Keys to the City and His Majesty King Leon

about the same topic

The most beautiful pictures of the opening of the Baiyun Festival

The most beautiful pictures of the opening of the Baiyun Festival

Portfolio – The 90th Baiyun Festival runs from Wednesday, July 27 through Sunday, July 31 for five days of celebration for young and old. Opportunity to return in pictures to the openings of these celebrations in the Basque Country.

Two “big” traditions have survived without which the Baiyun Festival certainly wouldn’t have been the festival, and it has survived the years with incredible success. The first is the throwing of the keys to the city to a crowd of attendees, which is done from the top of the balcony of the city hall, to a crowd of party-goers and which officially opens the holidays. This honor is entrusted each year to a different guest of honor. Tradition disappeared for a while: people tended to believe that from the moment they got the keys to the city, they could do anything …

But the three keys, Grand Bayonne, Petit and Saint-Esprit Rive Droite, made a comeback with the creation of King Léon in 1987. Bayonne counts, among others: Louis Mariano, Johnny Hallyday in 1960, and now, Zazie, Jean-Jacques Goldman or Francis Capriel, Helen Segara, Patrick Bruel, Bernard Lavallier, Manu Chow or Yannick Noah. In 2012, Vincent Cassel was one of the star guests. Keys have also evolved. It was originally made of wood, now it is made of polystyrene… and the pain is less if you hit it on the head!

“Ah Leon, Leon, Leon, King of Baiyun, King of Baiyun…”

Second must-see is King Leon, the famous giant puppet and festive saint, who watches over his devoted subjects from the balcony of the town hall, during the festive period. Inspired by a real-life character from Bayonne’s life, the late Leon Dachary (see box below) best known at the time for his adventures, was created by comic book designer Jean Duverdere. His court and family grew over time with the new giant dolls.

flower parade

Sunday is the day of the Bandas Mass in the Basilica of Saint-Andre (another Mass is celebrated in the cathedral as well as in the Collegiate Church of Saint-Esprit). A procession is then organized for municipal officials accompanied by representatives of the city of Pamplona, ​​in which Bayonne and its festivals have been held since 1960, to the city hall. In the evening, the flower parade witnesses the competition for the various carriages decorated by the city’s associations. Puis vient la cérémonie de clôture sur la place de la mairie, dernier grand rite des fêtes, lors duquel chacun des milliers de festayres venus vivre avec passion et respect ces cinq jours et cinq nuits de fête’, retiredge… son foulard rou ‘Next year.

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