On the Sunday before Carnival (Sexegesima Sunday), the town of Balsareny (Bages) recalls one of the guilds that were particularly important for the area: the traginers or muleteers
. With mules, donkeys or horses, they walked along the river Llobregat, transporting goods between central Catalonia and the Pyrenees.
The Festa dels Traginers (Festival of the Muleteers) is heir to the celebrations that took place for Sant Antoni
(17th January), patron saint of the guilds that used working animals, and as is attested to in documents dating to the late 19th century. After the mass in the Saint's honour, the animals are brought to be blessed and dances, games, races and competitions are organised.
These celebrations in Balsareny lost their importance in the early 1930s, when motor transport took over. After the Civil War, however, the use of draft animals returned and the idea of bringing the festivities arose. In 1943, the Festival as we know it today was established. At that time it was known by its Spanish name, the "Fiesta de los Arrieros" (and its Catalan name, the "Festa dels Traginers", was not used until 1966).
The main elements of the festival were defined at that time: the mass with the blessing of the animals
and the subsequent parade with bands of musicians and horses marching through the streets of the town, presided over by the standard of Sant Antoni carried by a standard bearer and accompanied by two cordonistes
or rope bearers. There is also a donkey, mule and horse race
; the game of the rings
and the dance of Sant Antoni
. Over time, some changes have been introduced such as converting the parade into an historical-retrospective procession of the ancient muleteers of the road
The festival has been declared a Festival of Tourist Interest (1970), a Traditional Festival of National Interest (1999) and forms part of the Catalogue of the Festive Heritage of Catalonia