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Running of the Bulls, New Orleans Style

New Orleans’ version of Spain’s El Encierro is San Fermin in Nueva Orleans where thousands of people in red and white run from the Big Easy Rollergirls.

It takes something really special to galvanize huge groups of New Orleanians to take to the streets and party at 8:00 a.m. I’m talking like Mardi Gras Day, catching coconuts at Zulu kind of big. Considering thousands of people take to the streets for the 8:00 a.m. (sharp!) running of the bulls, then you know that San Fermin in Neuva Orleans has got to be a big deal.

San Fermin in New Orleans

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New Orleans’ interpretation of the Spanish Encierro (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

This New Orleans nod to the more famous Encierro of Pamplona, Spain, or “The Running of the Bulls” features its own running of the bulls, with a twist. Rather than being chased down by angry bulls, you’ll feel the heat from the Big Easy Rollergirls hot on your tail. Fortunately, rather than gore you, they “encourage” you to pick up the pace with a wiffle ball bat. San Fermin is now in its 8th year and has managed to truly take over the entire mid-July mindset in town, impressively, spanning Thursday through Sunday (July 10-13) with an endless parade of events.

Thursday, July 10

San Fermin kicks off Thursday night with a four course Spanish wine dinner at the Hotel Mazarin. Dinner kicks off at 7:00 p.m. and features classic Spanish dishes and the fine wines of Marqués de Cáceres. Red and white outfits are encouraged, particularly the classic feast of San Fermin garb of white pants and shirt with a red sash. You can grab tickets for the wine dinner online.

Friday, July 11

The second night’s festivities include the much talked about El Txupinazo at the Sugar Mill. This is one of those events that is a no brainer. You’ve got Commander’s Palace, Cochon, Borgne, and Patois all working together to supply the food, the Big Easy Rollergirls providing the entertainment and a ticket will set you back a solid zero dollars. That’s right, free as can be. I can think of no reason why you won’t be there starting at 5:00 p.m. when doors open.

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In New Orleans, our bulls are on skates (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

Saturday, July 12

Saturday is the main event, El Encierro (the running of the bulls). Join 14,000 of your closest friends as you make a mad dash from 400 “angry” roller girls and their bats! Participation in the run is free to all who wish, but runners must wear white shirts, white pants/shorts and a red sash on your neck and waist. A post-run party kicks off immediately after for a small fee. The party goes well into the afternoon with La Fiesta de Pantalones at the Maison on Frenchmen starting at 4:00 p.m. Yet another free event with tons of live music. Think you saw some crazy stuff during the running of the bulls? It’s only going to get stranger at the Party of Pants!

Sunday, July 13

Sunday will return to the scene of Saturday evening’s crimes at the Maison for the final, yet not surprisingly, free event of the festival. Enjoy brunch, drinks, and music while awaiting some truly special entertainment. Starting at 1:00 p.m., two Ernest Hemmingway contests kick off. First is the Ernest Hemmingway dramatic reading/skit contest. Past entries have dazzled the crowds with “great readings, puppet shows, improv comedy routines, and skits performed entirely with stuffed animals.” Following the ‘talent’ show is the beauty portion of the day, with an Ernest Hemmingway look-a-like contest. Both fabulous contests are open to the public with great prizes for the winners.

Like all great New Orleans events, San Fermin is one that will get you out of bed for an 8:00 a.m. kick-off. Also like all great New Orleans events, you’ve got to treat it as a marathon rather than a sprint if you’re going to make it all the way through. Unless a rollergirl is bearing down on you with a bat, then you’ll probably want to kick it into high gear!

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