By Susana Vera and Guillermo Martinez
PAMPLONA, Spain (Reuters) - In a normal year, the streets of Pamplona would have been packed on Wednesday, with white clad revellers celebrating Spain's San Fermin bull-running festival.
But they were quiet, after authorities cancelled the fiesta for the second year in a row - the first such occurrence since Spain's civil war in the 1930s - over COVID-19 concerns.
Immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises", the eight-day festival draws hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe each July to drink, dance and run with the bulls.
After cancelling it in 2020 as Europe reeled from a first wave of infections, organisers decided in February that resuming the fiesta this year posed too great a risk.
Veteran bull-runner Antonio Manzanera, 55, from the southeastern region of Murcia said he felt an "immense sadness" at the cancellation.
"Running is what we like the most...But we understand that due to the pandemic it has been cancelled, and we came with the same hopes this year and next year we will continue."
Local businesses, some of which rely on San Fermin for up to a fifth of their annual income, were struggling.
"The streets are empty, the balconies are empty," said Roberto Bueno, owner of a traditional cafe in Pamplona's old town, recalling how in previous years the queue outside it would stretch down the street.
But for others, another bull-free San Fermin is a cause for celebration.
"There will be no bullfights in the city, which fills us with satisfaction. We believe they are not necessary to enjoy the festival," said animal rights group AnimaNaturalis.
(Writing by Nathan Allen; editing by John Stonestreet)