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On the Saturday that falls between July 7th and 13th (when the Festival of San Fermin is held in Pamplona, Spain) people of various states of mind, from the brave to the weird to the just plain drunk, gather at The Starboard in Dewey Beach, Delaware, to run with the Bull. Dressed in the traditional Pamplona white clothing and red bandanas (and the less traditional bikini tops, kilts, clown wigs, and whatever they feel like), the bull runners meet at the Starboard in the early morning hours (which run from 11 AM to 1:30 PM in Dewey) on the appointed day, where they enjoy beverages, loud music, and general pre-run festivities (like the meeting and greeting of the Bull, but mostly just beverages and loud music). At 2 PM, the Run officially begins.
The bull runners exit The Starboard and, after a brief pep rally / orientation session in the parking lot, the crowd crosses Highway One and walks leisurely north – followed by the Bull – making its way to Houston Street, walk the one block to the ocean and congregate at the edge of the water.
With much fanfare, the Bull descends from the dunes onto the beach. At the marshal’s signal, the Bull is set loose and the crowd begins to run, jog, or – in many cases – stumble, heading south down the water’s edge. The Bull pursues the crowd at about the same pace, occasionally stopping for photo ops with children. The running is cheered on by spectators on both land and sea.
After about eight to ten blocks of “running” (maybe ten minutes), the bull runners and Bull exit the beach. Walking back up Highway One to the Starboard, the runners gather in the parking lot and await the arrival of the Bull and matador for the annual bullfight. Meanwhile, by tradition, the Bull and some of his handlers make a pass through Gary’s Dewey Beach Grill, located across the street, for the annual ceremonial Funneling of the Beer.
Finally, the annual bullfight is held in the parking lot of the Starboard, and either the matador or Bull is slain (though not really), and often such characters as the Phatador, Batador, and Bratador, as well as mermaids, sharks, flamenco dancers, and lifeguards can be found participating in the ritualistic silliness. The crowd then retires to the bar for more beverages and loud music.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE BULL IS ONLY TWO PEOPLE IN A BULL COSTUME. Despite the fact this precaution was implemented to ensure safety, the Running has recently drawn protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal Costumes, or PETAC (pronounced PEE-tak), whose placards insist that “This Run is Bull”, “Garrett is Murder” and “Chicks Dig Protestors”. Despite these allegations, their efforts to prevent the Running, coupled with their seemingly contradictory participation in it, have proven ineffectual in dissuading runners.
HOW IT CAME TO BE
All good things have origins.
It should be noted that all mediocre, bad, horrible, and even completely bizarre things have origins as well, but this is the story about a good thing, so let’s just focus on that. Okay, you got me. It’s also a completely bizarre thing.
Anyway, the point is this: the Dewey Beach Running of the Bull has an origin and this is it, more or less, supposedly, we think… Like many great ideas, the Dewey Beach Running of the Bull was largely the product of too much beer. While many of the traditions and pageantry that are now associated with the Running have haphazardly evolved over the years with the input of many people, the basic idea – to bring a bit of Pamplona’s Festival of San Fermin to Dewey Beach – was the brainchild of three guys very late one night at the Starboard in the spring of 1997. Michael McDonnell and Mike Howard had been to Spain for the Running of the Bulls (or the encierro, as it’s called in Pamplona) in the summer of 1994. In the spring of 1997, at the opening weekend of the Starboard, they were discussing with beach housemate Andrew Brady the idea of having a red wine and paella party that upcoming July, to celebrate the Festival of San Fermin. One stupid idea led to another, and by the end of the night it was decided that the party would not be complete without a Bull Running. With little chance of getting a real bull to the beach, they opted to rent a bull costume from Gene’s Costumes in Kensington, MD. The rest is history. In the first year, about thirty-five people (friends and housemates of Michael, Mike and Andrew) braved the Running of the Bull. Because of the public nature of that event, word spread quickly and by the second year about ninety people ran. In recent years, bull runners number in the hundreds. In 2004, the Starboard unveiled a new, improved Bull, designed specifically for the event.
(1) Cross the street when leaving the Starboard all together, and as fast as possible. Police will assist you in getting across the busy highway quickly, holding up traffic for just a moment or two so you can all cross safely. Once they start moving traffic again, you would need to be out of the street, and use crosswalks. We tend to forget that Saturday traffic on this state highway is at a maximum with Saturday-Saturday rentals.
(2) Once you get to the beach, everyone will gather then charge the beach together, and everyone MUST STAY INSIDE THE ORANGE CONES while on the beach. Our Dewey Beach Patrol will be heavily monitoring the run so that you can all have fun, and those on the beach can watch without getting caught up in the run. It is very important that everyone stay within the orange cones and that NOBODY tries to jump in the Ocean. It is assumed by our beach patrol that anyone running with the bull has had an alcoholic beverage (or two), so they do not allow anyone to jump in the ocean and will remove you immediately if you try. Sorry….part of what happens when this thing gets so big!
(3) When you come off the beach, officers will again be on hand to help you cross right there at Dagsworthy Street, then walk back up the highway to The Starboard.