Mayor of Palma Joan Fageda presides over the blessing.

He streets of Palma and towns across the Balearics were yesterday the stage for the biggest pet show of the year as thousands of people took their pets to be blessed in holy water. In what is an annual event taking place as part of the Roman Catholic festival of San Antoni - the patron saint of domestic animals - thousands of people paraded past local priests or the Bishop of Majorca in Palma, to have their pets blessed and receive special rolls marked with a cross. In Madrid the festival was banned for many years because it caused traffic congestion. Since it was reintroduced in the late 1980s, pet power has ruled - and many roads are simply closed off to obviate any traffic problems as was the case in Palma yesterday as the animal procession wound its way from the Cathedral, through Plaza Mayor and finally dispersing near Plaza d'España. The annual crush of people all jockeying for position before the Bishop and the Mayor of Palma, Joan Fageda, was absent from yesterday's event in Palma with local police out in force to make sure the procession went smoothly. The train of pets, some on leads or carried by their loving owners and others on the back of the floats which have also become fixtures of the parade, also included the mounted Palma police and the Guardia Civil with their sniffer dogs. But as always, the biggest surprises come from the general public. Over the years everything from lynx wild cats to tigers and wild boar have made an appearance in the parade and yesterday proved no exception with otters, penguins, mice and dogs of all shapes and sizes being blessed. The animal parade is a huge event for the children with schools across the island descending on the capital for the biggest animal show on the island which also featured marching bands, Majorcan folk dancers and enormous devils which frighten the life out of the smallest members of the crowd. But apart from having their pets blessed, there is a hidden agenda for some keen pet lovers. The procession if followed by an award ceremony for champion pets and a handful of dog owners in particular would have spent all morning grooming their beloved four legged friends.


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