The ‘Vara de Pescao’ is the main event that happens in Arinaga at the end of August each year. It started many years ago as a celebration of the traditional fishing crafts in the town, but has now become one of the biggest parties on the island with up to 40,000 people joining the event.
The event happens on the last Friday of August each year, so this year (2019) it is on Friday 30th. There is an unofficial ‘dress code’ … the white shirt and blue jeans or trousers that the fishermen of Arinaga wore along with a straw hat! The literal translation is ‘the landing of the fish’.
It starts around mid afternoon with groups arriving in Arinaga, finding a place for a picnic, and by about 5.00pm the town is full of locals greeting each other and strolling around. At 6.00pm there is a ceremonial ‘landing of the sardines’ then at 7.00 a small procession of ‘boats’ make a procession along the Aveneida from Risco Verde, dispensing freshly cooked sardines.
There will be people in local traditional dress, live music groups playing traditional songs, percussion groups pounding out their rhythmic beat and two DJ’s and a marching band. You get a real feel for the ‘community’ and may come across farmers with their animals as well as women carrying the fish in baskets on their head in the traditional style.
The finale is the firework display at about 11.15, over the bay of Arinaga. Be there a bit early to get a good place to watch. Because this is done over water you get a great view from anywhere along the promenade, and the show includes fireworks on the surface and spectacular reflections in the sea.
If you want to come and see the fiesta, then it is a ‘free’ event, but get here early to find a spot to park (follow the signs for local parking), and when you leave, expect to be breathalysed as the Guardia Civil impose a 100% testing policy! Remember .. blue trousers and white shirt to feel part of the event.
During the event, all the restaurants on the Aveneida close for normal meals and just offer a bar and take-away sandwiches. Away from the main areas you can still get food earlier in the evening. The first year that I lived here (2002), I was in the process of taking over my diving centre in Gran Canaria, and we found a small backstreet restaurant (Bar el Tomate), but every time they started the sound systems they blew the power for half the town and we had to have the meal by candlelight! Today the event is much better managed and power cuts are much less frequent here.
So don’t miss this once-a-year event where you can see our sleepy little town transform into the biggest party on Gran Canaria for just one day.