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National Pyrotechnic Festival
March 3 - March 12
“If you can survive running through a shower of fireworks, you’ll have bragging rights to one of the most beautiful—and insane—festivals on Earth.”
Originally a 19th-century celebration held by local fireworks production guilds each year on March 8 in honor of San Juan de Dios, the patron saint of fireworks makers, the present-day incarnation of the Feria de la Pirotécnia Nacional (National Pyrotechnic Festival) first sparked in 1989. Each year since, about 100,000 people have descended upon this usually quiet area for nine exciting, dangerous days in March, running, skipping, hopping, jumping and dancing through the world’s most prolonged (and waiver-free) display of pyrotechnics. The festival includes three main events of powder-keg glory, as well as carnival rides, kiosks hawking regional street food, musical concerts, dance performances, and a ceremonial release of paper balloons.
A holdover from the original saint day, the festival’s main event is a pamplonada, a blazing spin on the running of the bulls. Some 250 toritos—intricate bull-shaped frames festooned with fireworks—are paraded with great fanfare through the streets of Tultepec for as many as six hours. Another of the festival’s surefire crowd-pleasers is the contest of castillos, 80- to 100-foot-tall constructions of castles that whirr, slide, zoom and spin when lit.
One of the festival’s best-attended events is a talent contest that features musicians from around Mexico City and outlying areas, showcasing different styles of music popular in the region, such as danzon, bolero and mambo. A much more peaceful event is the large-scale release of cantoya balloons, a tradition with roots in China and famously celebrated at an annual festival in the nearby state of Michoacan.