Thrill Seekers Flock to Spain’s San Fermin Festival for First Running of the Bulls

by Michael Nguyen
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San Fermin festival

In the vibrant city of Pamplona, northern Spain, thousands of adrenaline-seeking participants eagerly took part in the inaugural running of the bulls at the renowned San Fermín festival.

During the 8 a.m. event on Friday, numerous runners encountered knocks and tumbles along the exhilarating route, yet thankfully, none fell victim to the horns of the mighty beasts, which often add a dramatic element to the spectacle.

This beloved festival draws hundreds of thousands of tourists, with a staggering 1.7 million individuals visiting Pamplona to partake in the revelry in 2022. Forecasts for this year’s festivities are even higher, as all COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted.

In the race, six bulls, guided by six tame oxen, surged through the streets of Pamplona for approximately two minutes and 30 seconds, ultimately reaching the grand bull ring.

Ernest Hemingway’s iconic 1926 novel, “The Sun Also Rises,” catapulted the festival to worldwide fame. This year, the celebration marks the centenary of Hemingway’s initial visit.

The run held on Friday was the first of eight scheduled runs. The remainder of the day typically involves indulging in copious amounts of food and drink, as well as partaking in various cultural events.

Last year, four runners were gored during the festival, highlighting the inherent dangers involved. Since 1910, a total of sixteen individuals have tragically lost their lives in bull runs, with the most recent fatality occurring in 2009.

It is customary for the bulls that participate in the morning runs to meet their demise in the afternoon, skillfully dispatched by professional bullfighters.

Animal rights activists vehemently oppose the festival every year, decrying the perceived cruelty inflicted upon the animals.

Destino Navarra, an official tour guide group, disclosed that visitors from the United States and Canada account for a staggering 70% of their total bookings for this year’s festivities.

Seasoned bull runners, primarily local residents, boldly sprint ahead, narrowly evading the charging bulls’ menacing horns before veering off at the last possible moment. Inexperienced participants, including many foreigners, manage to scramble out of harm’s way, often finding themselves entangled amidst a pile of fellow runners.

During the vibrant festival, nearly everyone in Pamplona adorns themselves in the traditional attire of a white shirt and pants, complemented by a vibrant red sash and neckerchief.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about San Fermin festival

What is the San Fermin festival?

The San Fermin festival is a traditional event held in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona. It is renowned for its running of the bulls, where participants sprint alongside bulls through the streets.

How many people participate in the running of the bulls?

Thousands of thrill seekers take part in the running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival. It attracts both locals and tourists from around the world.

Are there any casualties during the running of the bulls?

While injuries can occur, the festival organizers take measures to minimize risks. However, there have been instances of runners being gored by the bulls, and sadly, fatalities have also occurred over the years.

What happens to the bulls after the running?

The bulls that participate in the morning runs are ultimately killed in the afternoon bullfights, which are performed by professional bullfighters.

Is the San Fermin festival controversial?

Yes, the festival has faced criticism from animal rights activists who believe it is cruel to the animals involved. They campaign against the event each year, calling for its abolition or reform.

How significant is the San Fermin festival?

The San Fermin festival holds great cultural significance. It gained international recognition through Ernest Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises,” and this year marks the 100th anniversary of Hemingway’s first visit to the festival.

How is the festival celebrated besides the running of the bulls?

In addition to the thrilling bull runs, the festival features cultural events, traditional food and drink, and vibrant celebrations throughout Pamplona. Visitors can immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere and enjoy various activities.

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