Irene Worthington Baron


Irene Baron:

Estepona, Spain has the largest fireworks display in the world!

fireworks display

Anticipation of July 4th depends upon where you are and where you have been. Here in the United States there will be bangs, sizzles, booms and yells. As fireworks explode in the air, the clouds of chemical dust may be seen blowing from the explosion site, some of the chemicals still glowing. Some of the larger pieces of debris may hit the ground. The firing site is therefore usually in an area where fires by burning chemicals raining down is minimal.

When I was a little girl the fireworks in my home town were primarily at the Muskingum County fairgrounds. Everyone would end up there by ten o’clock in the evening on the 4th of July to watch what the city could afford. There would be one large rocket rise in the air with sizzle and flames to burst into a gigantic sphere of color with matching booms or cracks of sound like guns. The remnants would trail to the ground or onto us spectators lining the perimeter of the race track. After the “oohhh’s” and “ahhhhhs” would die down, another rocket would be shot into the air. Only at the very end of the display would there be more than one rocket at a time and that was the short finale. 

My parents would drive us to the fairgrounds to watch the spectacle every year as I was growing up. Until I traveled to Europe or the Far East, I thought all displays were similar to the ones in Ohio. Until ... until I was camping with my husband and two other families with their children at a campsite near Estepona, Spain.  Our campsite was east of the village. If you drove a few miles east, you would come upon the campground which rested between the main roadway and the cold waters of the Mediterranean Sea. We stayed at the campsite about 3-weeks, driving into Estepona for fresh vegetables or fruit or just to see what was there.

During one excursion to the village one of the vendors told us to come back on Saturday night for there was a festival and there would be fireworks on the beach overlooking the ocean.  That sounded rather nice, so we all made the trek to Estepona before dark. When we arrived, the long beach in front of the town had what appeared scaffolding extending about ¼ of a mile down the beach. The scaffolding was triangular in shape. There were many men working about the wooden scaffolding. We could see many rockets attached to it.  As we watched, the sea was behind them and a full moon rested in the sky reflecting on the water. More and more people arrived. There was so much activity on the beach by those employed for the fireworks, it was impossible to see what was happening. The police and town folk were very careful to not let anyone onto the beach during this time period. Most everyone stayed on the main beach esplanade/roadway.

When those in charge had decided everything was ready and it was time to begin, the huge torches four men were holding were set on fire. The men held the torches high and began running down the beach alongside the scaffolding. The torches set rockets on fire and off they flew into the air. There was not one rocket at a time, but hundreds. The men must have been very athletically inclined, or they changed places, for they ran up and down the beach lighting the rockets for almost 45-minutes.

We were all astonished for we knew how expensive these fireworks were in the United States. After almost an hour of thousands of rockets booming and banging, lighting the sky with flame and designs and smoke and trails of colorful light, we were stunned. We finally asked someone how such a small village could afford such a display. The townspeople laughed and told us there was a fireworks factory in town. At the end of their “season” they had to get rid of the older fireworks as they would become a hazard. They donated them to the village to set off on the beach and bring in visitors to raise money. It worked. There were thousands of people there.

So now, whenever I see firework displays I enjoy them, but remember Estepona Spain. I doubt if anyone in the world would see a greater display than that one we witnessed in that small village. If the fireworks factory is still there, I assume it has continued to be an annual event.  Upon checking a Google map to see where our campsite was, I could not find it. The area instead has been built up with so many houses and villas and private areas, there is no longer a simple campground. Another reason the campground may not exist is a disaster which happened there two years after we left. The newspapers carried an article stating a propane truck crashed and exploded propane all down the campsite killing and burning many persons. The campground at that time was destroyed. Perhaps it was never rebuilt.

Map of southern SpainEstepona, the location shown on the map with a red star, is found in the Costa del Sol region of southern Spain in the province of Malaga. It is known for the beaches which stretch over 20-miles along the coast. The region is sunny over 300-days a year and used to be a perfect place to play in the Sun. There are a few camping areas in the splendor of rich homes now and a four lane highway where there used to be a smaller 2-lane road. People have learned it is indeed a beautiful area and have taken advantage of the availability of wooded or empty properties.

The only other time I was surprised at fireworks was in Kaiserslautern, Germany. We were having a New Years Eve party. at our home At the strike of midnight, everyone went out to the patio to witness the sky being lit up by many German citizens letting off rockets from their backyards. It didn’t compare to Estepona but was fun for it was totally unexpected. I didn’t know in Germany they celebrated the new year with fireworks.

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