More than a million visitors, a total of 60 buses a day at weekends, 100,000 square metres dedicated to Christmas... Why has Torrejón de Ardoz become the city with the largest Christmas theme park in Spain? What is it that has made this town snatch the limelight from Vigo in these festivities?
It all started 16 years ago with the arrival of Pedro Rollán to the Mayor's Office of Torrejón de Ardoz, a town located in the east of the Community of Madrid. This city of 133,377 inhabitants was known only for its air base, which was used by the U.S. military until 1992.
The popular Rollán, current president of the Senate, decided to give more joy to Christmas in order to boost commerce. At that time, the main Christmas attraction in Madrid was Cortylandia, where all the Torrejoneros made a pilgrimage.
The local government team began by lighting the tree and installing an ice rink, areas of animatronic dolls and a small train in the area of the Plaza Mayor.
And he invented the guachis, goblins "that were neither cool nor chachis", elves that became the favorite pet of children, according to Valeriano Díaz, former councilor for Celebrations and current mayor of Works.
Little by little, the festival was transformed into a pole of attraction from which the whole city benefited, as hotels, restaurants and shops were filled with the arrival of new visitors.
Women having fun in Torrejón.J. BARBANCHO
In 2015, Rollán left the Mayor's Office to become Minister of Transport in the Government of Cristina Cifuentes and landed in the Ignacio Vázquez Consistory, which continued in the line traced to continue promoting the Christmas celebration in the municipality.
He then decided to commission the famous Magic Door to the Italian company Mariano Light, with a spectacular light show.
This light and musical display – unique in Europe – caused the Magical Christmas of Torrejón de Ardoz to begin to take on a different dimension and receive the attention of the European Parliament. What's more, in 2018 the aforementioned body awarded them the prize for the European Capital of Christmas, a title they share with the Belgian city of Liège.
"Getting the Italian company to do our project was complicated. They had never heard of Torrejón and the first communications were difficult. We even thought we weren't going to make it, but, in the end, we did," the current mayor of the city, Alejandro Navarro, and former councillor for Celebrations, told GRAN MADRID.
The Magic Gate is one of the emblems of the park and this year it has a sensational assembly of a multicolored LED screen on its large front of 27 meters high by 27 meters wide, with a million bulbs, all seasoned with the music of the essential Last Christmas, by Wham, and All I want for Christmas is you, by Mariah Carey.
The Italian company brings its own team of 12 people from its country to assemble the huge wooden stand and, at the foot of the door, there is always a technician to regulate the lights.
Dying of success in Torrejón
In addition, this 2023 the park once again takes another qualitative leap by having the management of Productores de Sonrisas - the creators of shows such as the Ice Circus, Rock Circus or Circlassica - who have installed a festival of Asian lanterns, the largest life-size nativity scene in Spain with 7,000 meters and 200 figures and a spectacular exhibition of ice figures.
The Magical Christmas was about to die of success. After European recognition, the Community of Madrid also took notice of Torrejón and declared the event a Festival of Regional Tourist Interest.
The volume of people began to multiply and the Plaza Mayor and the outskirts of the city collapsed in the face of the avalanche of people, who clogged the parking lot.
For this reason, in 2019, the mayor decided to move the event to a larger leisure park next to the fairgrounds. The arrival of the pandemic forced the cancellation of the event and a rethink of the concept.
The Magical Christmas was a totally free space that everyone could enter, but, after Covid, the venue was fenced off and a symbolic entrance fee began to be charged.
"It's a popular price. We needed to have a controlled capacity and we charged a ticket because we didn't have the capacity to absorb all that volume of people," says the current councillor, who came to office in the summer after Ignacio Vázquez, the most voted mayor in Spain, left the post to run the Metro.
The entrance fee has gone from four to six euros, which has provoked criticism from the opposition. The Consistory argues that most amusement parks cost 30 euros and, in addition, family days are celebrated - December 12, 13, 19 and 20 - in which it is free.
The ice rink, on top of a lake.J. BARBANCHO
The ticket allows you to visit the nativity scene, the Magic Gate and the lantern walk, while the ice rink and attractions cost from four to nine euros.
"We are very proud of what we have achieved. Vigo only has the lights, but there is no theme park in Spain that generates so much excitement and with so many cultural offerings," Díaz argues.
Another novelty of this 2023 is that the management of the park was put out to tender and won by the company Productores de Sonrisas, an expert in family entertainment. The UTE Polaris – which competed for the tender – appealed the decision to the Administrative Court of Public Procurement, which finally agreed with the City Council.
The winning company pays a fee to the Consistory of three million euros, which allows it to pay for the cleaning and the staff provided by the municipality, as well as financing other celebrations.
"We had contracts with different managers and we wanted to have a single manager, who would give a higher quality to the park, in which 180 people work," explains Navarro.
Best Deal on the Magical Christmas
The arrival of Productores de Sonrisas – National Circus Award 2023 – has brought novelties, such as the largest ice rink built on a lake, and has completely changed the gastronomic offer.
In addition, the company of the González Villanueva brothers has turned the park into a huge photocall, full of corners and figures of lights to take the perfect selfie to succeed on Instagram: from a golden sleigh to the Cinderella carriage to the figures of dinosaur lights.
The park has a Christmas Village, with attractions for the little ones; the Casa de la Navidad, a place where you can meet Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men in person, and a Christmas market to buy curiosities and typical items.
In addition, in a 2,000-square-meter tent, there is the BierHaus, in the style of German breweries and scattered around the enclosure there are numerous booths -which have been renovated so that they all have the same Christmas aesthetic-, where a varied gastronomic offer is offered.
There is no shortage of typical chestnuts such as those dispatched by Eva María García, who visited the park last year and this 2023 insisted on selling chestnuts with her own stall. He has a food truck in Alicante and has spent two months doing a master's degree in chestnuts to learn about the product.
"They are very grateful. You have to roast them slowly and put a lot of patience and a lot of love. Being a street vendor is in my blood," she says proudly.
Buses from all over Spain come to Torrejón at this time. It is the best means of transport to access the park, along with the train, since the Cercanías station is just a few metres away and thus avoids traffic jams at the entrances and parking problems for the 35,000 daily visitors.
And it's not just families with children who arrive. This Wednesday it was the turn of a bus of elderly people from Villanueva de Alcardete, in Toledo. All of them were delighted with the Magical Christmas.
"I called my grandson on a video call to show him and he said, 'How beautiful butterflies are, yaya!' The best gift for this holiday season is to come with the whole family," conclude Pilar, Lourdes and Petra.