To escape from the hustle and bustle of Marbella Town’s busy tourist season last Friday night, I decided to take myself up to the “Verbena” (traditional summer night-time local fair) which was being held at the very top of the Arroyo de la Represa park, beyond the suspension bridge.
As I walked past the remains of Marbella’s Moorish castle walls, patches lit up by strategically placed spotlights, offered ghostly glimpses of a long-gone past.
I entered the fairground and stepped into a time-capsule of a scene, reminiscent of the village fairs of my childhood summers spent in Andalucía, long before the property boom took hold: A gathering of local families out enjoying a balmy summer night – children clamouring excitedly around the sweet and games stalls or delighting in rudimentary fun-fair rides, while the adults looked on indulgently or sat around tables eating and drinking and watching the performance of traditional dance groups in front a stage.
I got chatting with a stall-holder who came from a family of fairground workers. He told me how when he was a boy, this same Marbella Verbena was held on the banks of the river that once flanked the castle wall, until it was first covered over and converted into a park in the late 60’s. His eyes lit up, as with a whimsical smile he painted a picture of a summer evening get-together organised by the local people, picnics shared, as neighbours celebrated, dancing and singing into the early hours amidst the natural, untamed riverside setting …
And then the magnificently cheery local music entertainers Duo Arenal came on stage –belting out a mix of popular rumbas and blast-from-the-past Spanish summer hits -urging everyone onto the dance floor.
What else could I do but join in?
I eventually made my way home, bathed in the warm glow of neighbourliness and simple good-old fashioned fun that this traditional family summer evening Marbella fair still embodies.
(Text and photos by Liz Glazer)