(WAOK) – Thousands of participants and spectators came together on a rainy Saturday afternoon to be a part of a festival full of kicks, smiles, and surprises, thanks to the inaugural Atlanta Great Bull Run. The event is coordinated by The Great Bull Run LLC. Taken from the pages of Spanish tradition, The Great Bull Run features hundreds of participants dressed in various costumes running for their lives from very large Rodeo bulls.
The event is run by Rob Dickens and his 20 member team out of their Boston, Massachusetts headquarters. Dickens states that his own failed trip to Pamplona, Spain to run with the bulls was his inspiration in bringing the festival to America. “A lot of people say one day, one day, I’m going to run with the bulls. Well, I actually tried to go do that last year.” He continued by saying that it is difficult to make happen, costing roughly $3,000 per person. In addition to flights to Spain and a train from Madrid to Pamplona, the prospect of getting hotel rooms in Pamplona during the busiest time of the year is bleak. Dickens compares it to getting a week’s worth of hotel rooms in New York City during New Year’s Eve, calling it “almost impossible.” He began starting to think that there “had to be hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. just like me who want to do it but can’t do it, let’s bring it here.” The Great Bull Run LLC is geared to land in 8 more cities nationwide through July 2014. With stops in major markets such as Houston, Chicago, Tampa Bay, & Southern California, the city of Atlanta was a no brainer as a place to tour. Atlanta is “a great place to come,” said Dickens. “People love crazy activities out here. With all the people coming out today, they are really excited about it.” With major cities contacting the company to put on the event, dickens hopes that they will “keep growing until we are in every major city in the U.S.”
Held at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Georgia, the event featured 40 rodeo bulls running in a quarter mile circle towards hundreds of people that either ran, got ran over, or hopped up on fences. With risk of bodily harm to everyone involved, Dickens says that in some places it is easy to get permission to do this event and in others it is not, adding that “It’s really just a matter of convincing the local town officials that it’s a good idea and that thousands of people aren’t going to die.” Dickens applauded the Georgia International Horse Park, calling it a “great venue…and a great partner.” With the number of animal related events that the horse park holds, He says that they “understood immediately that this could be a fantastic event.”
The inaugural event held in Richmond, Virginia in August had two people hauled to hospitals, one with a concussion and one with a broken hand. “These are two guys in the middle of the track, as close as possible to get to those bulls…they didn’t get out of the way.” The event is held within the confines of a quarter mile ring roughly 30 feet wide, with 18 bulls running from their pen around the track and back into their pen, all while people attempt to outrun or dodge them. The course is built so people may jump onto the sides of the fencing and even dash into built in safe spots within the rails as extra refuge. Dickens says that the bulls are trained to run straight, and “By not running through city streets” the organizers have made it less dangerous to runners and the animals.
It seemed that the most dangerous thing about running with the bulls wasn’t getting trampled by one of them, but by other people. Numerous people were knocked down and ran on or over. Participant Jeffery Neal of Conyers stated that while he enjoyed the event the one drawback was that “I kept getting my legs and ankles kicked and stepped on.” The pain wasn’t much of a deterrent however. Asked if he was going to re-run and he replied with an emphatic “yes”. Spectators weren’t as enthused however, as one was overheard loudly asking “is that it?” after one of the runs. Victoria Faris expressed her displeasure as well. “It was nice to watch but it was so short, I thought they would at least run longer.”
Be on the look-out for registration next fall as the tour will return to each city.
Here are some photos from the event. To see more visit our Photo Gallery
Written By Sherman H. Smith Jr (WAOK/Intern)