Ibi Spain

Article about Ibi, a town on the Costa Blanca, Spain.

Ibi Costa Blanca – Spain’s Toy Town

Ibi is a town of some 22,000 inhabitants just to the north of Alicante on the CV-805/815 and is perfect for children who are perhaps tired of the pool and beach. For it was in Ibi that Spain’s toy industry started and it houses a wonderful toy museum which will delight any child.

Ibi is a mountainous town with hills and ravines which together with a clay soil, meant that historically the village could not be dependent on the growing of crops for its economic stability, although the growing of vines, olive and almond trees was reasonably successful and in 1900 the small town of approximately 3000 had only this to rely on. Add to this that snowfalls are not uncommon and it can soon be understood why other forms of industry were needed.

At the beginning of the last century the only other activity was the manufacture of paper. However, well before this time, in the XVII century the villagers of Ibi were involved in an altogether different kind of industry known as the ‘cold’ industry. They used to collect ice from the surrounding mountains and together with a neighbouring town they became pioneers of the ice trade. This continued until the beginning of the nineteenth century when it expanded to incorporate the manufacture and sale of home-made ice cream and it is at about this same time that the story of Ibi changes and it was ready to become a leading national centre for toys.

The toy industry has changed everything for the Ibenses (the local inhabitants of Ibi), their economy demography and the structure of the town. Today Ibi is the largest toy manufacturing centre in the country with 37 different companies supplying some 40% of the national production. This all started at the beginning of the twentieth century, from old records and archives still remaining. 1902 would seem the likeliest date a tinsmith made a tin carriage for his children to play with and this simple act was to lay the foundation for the successful story of the Pay? family, and from the notes produced from the museum it would seem that initially they produced these toys whilst still continuing their tinsmith activities.

Some say that Ibi is the Spanish Headquarters of the Three Kings of the Orient, who bring gifts at Christmas. Whilst this might not be true with the number of toy factories and the Toy Museum Ibi is certainly a town which children would like to visit and interestingly but not surprisingly, there is a monument to the Three Kings in the town. A Technological Institute for Toys has a working schedule that starts in May and continues until the Three Kings fiestas. The Pay? family continued to make little tin toys, very simple but very colourful and by 1930 they were employing some 500 workers.

During the early years the Pay? brothers acquired a great number of toys from around the world which they would dismantle to see how their manufacture could be improved One brother Raimundo would always collect two identical toys from his travels, one to be taken apart and the other to be kept as a sample and he became over time the owner of a valuable collection of tin toys. The museum now houses over 400 hundred samples of toys each given its proper authenticity. Through negotiation and finally permission from the Valencian Government the Valencian Toys Museum of Ibi was placed in the Gran Casa in 1990.

The village of Ibi nestles between two hills where the hermitages Santa Lucia and San Miguel are situated and the area of the old town near to the church is known as The Costeretas which is a series of narrow streets rising up the hill dedicated to Santa Lucia. The hermitage itself can be reached from many different places in the village and according to tradition the hermitage was constructed on the ruins of an Arab castle. Of course the village also celebrates its own fiestas and saints days some of which have been re-introduced in the past fifty years. A good celebration for the children is the Fiesta del Geladors which takes place in February with children’s games and finishes with ice cream being distributed in the town square.

On the 17th May there is the Romeria A San Pascual which according to tradition started in 1661 when a farmer of Ibi, after a persistent drought, implored in the name of the saint for water, he then sank a wooden pole into the ground where he had prayed and found water. During the months of June, July and august on Tuesday and Thursday evening in the Plaza there is dancing and some of the traditional Ibenese dances are performed.

During the second weekend of September fiestas are held in honour of the Virgen of the Defenceless, with Moors and Christians pageants. The Els Enfarinats takes place on the 27th and 28th of December and are the original winter celebrations. If you decide to visit Ibi you will discover that not only is it a charming large village or small town with plenty to see and do but also it caters for all tastes as far as cuisine is concerned and as would be expected ice-cream is extremely popular.

Article provided by kind permission of The Leader Newspaper

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