RUNNING OF THE BULLS PROMISES TO BE BEEFIER
- July 20, 2018
- / Mike Suchcicki Special to Pensacola News Journal USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
- / Post Tags
RUNNING OF THE BULLS PROMISES TO BE BEEFIER
Special to Pensacola News Journal USA TODAY NETWORK – FLORIDA
The organizers of this year’s Running of the Bulls want both spectators and participants to know that the event is going to be bigger, better and … well, bullier.
Ray Cocuy, chairman of Pensabulls, the event’s coordinating committee, says the wild-and-wacky fundraiser, a parody of the famed Bull Run in Pamplona, Spain, still will have dozens of runners chased through the streets of downtown Pensacola by human, wifflebat- wielding “bulls” on roller skates.
This year, however, he says, “There is going to be many more people. There’s going to be a lot more bulls, a lot more energy a lot more of a fiesta involved. We’re going to have close to 400 runners plus 65 bulls plus a ton of volunteers. It’s a lot more energy than ever before. And because it’s Seville Quarter, the afterparty will be huge.”
So big has the event become, in fact, that the Pensabulls nonprofit organization was created to take the reins fromits original organizer, Seville Quarter.
“I was pretty much the chair of the committee for the last eight years,” Cocuy says. “But the Running of the Bulls was getting so big, and Seville Quarter does so many events throughout the year that they said, ‘We’re going to have to let one go.’ They asked me if I wanted to take it over, so I created Pensabulls as a nonprofit to be able to hold the event and support our beneficiary, USO of Northwest Florida.”
See RUNNING, Page 7C
Runners head to the finish line during the annual Seville Quarter Running of the Bulls last year. JOHN BLACKIE/[email protected]
The “bulls” are locked up prior to the 2017 Running of the Bulls in downtown Pensacola. JOHN BLACKIE/[email protected]
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The Saturday event is the main attraction of Seville Quarter’s re-creation of Pamplona’s Festival de San Fermin, a mix of carnival, concert and bacchanal best known for the running of the bulls, where actual, honest-to-goodness real bulls are let loose through some of the streets of the old city. Humans, for whatever reason, allow themselves to be chased by the bulls, not always with happy consequences.
The fiesta is celebrated in honor of Saint Fermin, patron of Navarra. Novelist Ernest Hemingway introduced the festival and the bull run to the world in his 1926 work “The Sun Also Rises.”
San Fermin also is re-created — in human-bull version — annually in New Orleans, an event that inspired the folks at Seville Quarter to create its own take.
“In New Orleans they have 20,000 participants,” Cocuy says. “I’ve attended it the last five years. It’s just too big. I don’t know how they do it. It’s unbelievable how they do it. I like how we’re not too small and not too big, just the level we need to raise the money for USO.”
Festivities kicked off Thursday at Seville Quarter with a Spanish Wine Dinner. Today, the Chupinzao (opening celebration) features a procession honoring Saint Fermin with members of the Krewe of Andres de Pez.
The main event is the “Encierro,” the Bull Run re-enactment. At 9 a.m. Saturday, the first cannon will be fired and the runners will be off, following an approximately 2-mile course through downtown. A few minutes later, a second cannon will sound, releasing the hordes of “bulls,” actually members of the Pensacola Roller Gurlz roller derby team, as well as ladies from other, regional roller derby leagues. Rather than goring the runners with horns, the bulls tag them gently with wiffle-ball bats. Most runners will be wearing the traditional garb of all white with red kerchiefs or sashes.
Allison Klingmann, a stay-at-home mom whose roller derby identity is clOver Kill, is suiting up to be a “bull” for her seventh run on Saturday. To say she loves the task is an understatement.
“It’s very clear cut on who holds the power: The bull,” she says.
Her years of experience have given her a unique insight to the average victim … uh, participant.
“There are three types of runners: Taunters, the ones that cover their butts and ask for mercy, and the no-eye-contact runners. A lot of people like to taunt the bulls, saying, ‘You cannot get me!’ Or, ‘She can’t hit hard!’ Those people get it worse. The ones that beg for mercy are definitely going to get hit but much more lightly and the no-eye-contacts are my favorite. It’s like they think that if they don’t make eye contact you will leave them alone.”
She thinks about it for a minute. “Well, actually there are four types. The last is the runner who begs for the beatings. They are in the 1 percent. All the runners know what they are in for and the majority take the hits with grace and laughs.”
Klingmann says runners can continue to run even after they get tagged.
“In fact, they usually go a little faster. We are dispersed throughout the run so that there are plenty of opportunities for us to tag/hit everyone. We also do a gauntlet at the end of the race where we line up on both sides of the street in front of Seville and runners dash through us and we hit them.”
There are only five rules for the participants, as posted on Pensabulls.com: 1. “You run this event at your own risk. We will have medical assistance available for trips and falls, but you know what you’re getting into in the first place.
2. “You are not allowed to touch, push, kick or swing at the bulls. The bulls are allowed to strike you only with their bats.
3. “While this is an event for all ages, we recommend that children under the age of 10 years stay close to the curbs.
4. “If you do lose your balance or fall to the pavement, stay down until someone comes up and taps you. The bulls have been instructed to not strike a fallen runner, but we don’t want you suddenly popping up in front of a bull.
5. “We recommend all participants wear traditional attire so we — and the bulls — know the difference between participants and ‘innocent bystanders,’ but we’ve learned there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander at this event.”
“We have very very strict rules,” Cocuy says. “The runners get just a tap with the bat from the bulls. We’re just doing this as a spoof of what they do in Pamplona, without the risk of injury. We don’t want anyone to get hurt and have taken every precaution to make sure nobody does.”
Cocuy says Pensabulls has set a goal of $10,000 for this year’s run, to be earned through runner registration and corporate sponsorship. Registration on the day of the race is $30, which includes a wristband for complimentary beer and soft drinks. Unfortunately, however, there is no guarantee of an official T-shirt for day-of-run registrants.
“We’ve had so much interest this year that most of the T-shirts went to those who registered in advance,” Cocuy says.
Except for a few commenters who’ve lamented that the run celebrates an event that exploits and harms animals, Cocuy says, “We’ve had nothing but positive feedback over the years. It celebrates the heritage, particularly of Pensacola’s connections with Spain. I promise you that no animals will be hurt.”
Besides, it’s all for a good cause.
“I’m a veteran and a lot of our committee members are veterans,” Cocuy says. “The whole idea behind making this event grow was so we could bring on a charity that is near and dear to our community, which is USO. And people should know that the money raised is not just going to Washington, D.C., or the USO HQ. It’s going to stay here, with USO Northwest Florida. A lot of veterans have really gotten involved. It’s all for the right cause and we’re passionate about it, to say the least.”
Mike Suchcicki is a freelance writer for the News Journal.
The “bulls” are released during the seventh annual Seville Quarter Running of the Bulls last July.
JOHN BLACKIE/[email protected]
A “bull” gets ready at the starting line of the Running of the Bulls last year. Don’t let her smile fool you. She’s out to get you! JOHN BLACKIE/[email protected]