500 and out

LAST UPDATED: 16 Apr, 2009 @ 20:45
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500 and out

TRADERS and hoteliers are up in arms after Andalucia’s oldest agricultural fair has been cancelled for the first time in its history.

Despite taking millions of euros in planning fees from projects – including controversial golf scheme Los Merinos – Ronda mayor Antonio Marin Lara insists the town hall can’t afford the 200,000 euros needed to put on the fair.

He has been heavily criticised for claiming that the money for the 522-year-old Feria de Mayo would be better spent on providing jobs for the town.

Rather than taking a pay cut, the mayor, who earns 59,000 euros a year, insists the money will provide 106 jobs for local families living in ‘extreme’ situations.

He insists that the money can be used to create short term temporary jobs in the gardening, cleaning and building sectors. “People are starving. I’ve seen people crying and threatening to do crazy things,” he said.

But critics insist that the cancellation will mean hotels, restaurants and shops losing considerable custom at one of the toughest times in recent history.

IU boss Rafael Ruiz said that cancelling a popular fair ‘which forms part of Ronda’s heritage’ is not the answer.

He told the Olive Press: “While the council should try to ease the serious unemployment situation in the town, this is not the answer.

“Money should have been cut from other areas or we, as councillors, could have taken a pay cut to fund the initiative.”

The fair has been taking place every year since it was inaugurated in 1487 by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. The three-day horse fair for private traders will still take place.

Ronda resident Pablo Cabello Blanco, said: “I am outraged. The feria is important for promoting all types of businesses, particularly agriculture and tourism.

“What about hotels and other businesses who rely on the feria for doing business?”

Last year 40,000 visitors attended the Friday, Saturday and Sunday and enjoyed sampling goods from all over Spain, buying produce grown on local farms and seeing the wide range of livestock on show.

A number of key events, such as the National Alpaca Championships, have also had to be cancelled.

Nigel Cobb, Chairman of The Spanish Alpaca Society, said: “We are naturally disappointed. Having worked hard to establish the championship and to get it as a regular feature at the feria, it’s now not going to happen this year.”

Local growers have now decided to organise a special farmers market in the Barrio San Francisco that weekend.

“We have decided not to let the mayor beat us all into submission,” said one local farmer.

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