San Fermin in Nueva Orleans: Running of the Bulls in New Orleans
Imagine running for dear life as a half-ton bull angrily chases after you through the streets of Pamplona, Spain. Sounds a little scary, right? Now imagine running from a group of women on skates, dressed up like bulls, chasing you with plastic bats as you run through the streets of downtown New Orleans, towards a finish line where delicious food, drinks, and lively entertainment await. Can we all agree that the second option is a great deal safer — and, just maybe, more fun?
San Fermin in Nueva Orleans (Running of the Bulls) pays homage to New Orleans’ Spanish heritage, with a unique and fun twist that distinguishes it from its Spanish original, Encierro de Pamplona. The “bulls” are the roller derby skaters, dressed in the traditional colors of Spain’s bull run and wearing horned helmets. They are mostly represented by the Big Easy Rollergirls, along with the participants from the other roller derby leagues across the country. The runners come in thousands, decked in white with red accents. (This being New Orleans, both the bulls and the runners can also get very creative with their costumes.)
Running of the Bulls Like You’ve Never Seen It Before
The festival is a series of parties and the actual Encierro (the run), all happening over the weekend of July 12-14. On the day of the Encierro, Saturday, July 13, the party kicks off as early as 6:30 a.m., with live music, beer, sangria, and food trucks. The runners gather around the Sugar Mill (1021 Convention Center Blvd.) in downtown New Orleans, and, after the Procession of San Fermin (Pamplona’s patron saint) and the Invocation, the run starts at 8 a.m. sharp.
Before and After the Run
The run lasts till about 11:30 a.m., making its way through the Central Business District (CBD) of New Orleans (you can check out the route here), followed by a live music show back at the Sugar Mill. After that, you can attend the traditional La Fiesta de Pantalones, held this year at the Rusty Nail (1100 Constance St.) starting at 11:30 a.m., or just join the other revelers who stick around to make a day of it bar-crawling in the CBD and the Warehouse District.
The opening party takes place on Friday, July 12, at the Sugar Mill, from 5 to 9 p.m. Called El Txupinazo (and pronounced “el choo-pin-AHT-so”), it features a live auction, music, and food from some of the top local restaurants, including Atchafalaya, Commander’s Palace and Sobou.
On Sunday, July 14, you’ll have a chance to recover after your run at the Ernest Hemingway-themed closing party at Lula Restaurant Distillery (1532 St. Charles Ave.), 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The El Pobre de Mi (“Poor Me”) extravaganza will feature burlesque, cocktails, and a Papa Hemingway look-alike contest.
The events happening on Friday and Saturday are ticketed (tickets are $30-$95), while the Sunday closing party has no cover and is pay-as-you-go. Proceeds go to Beth’s Friends Forever, a charity named after Nola Bulls cofounder Beth Hanning, which raises money for financially needy women fighting cancer in the Greater New Orleans area; and the Big Easy Animal Rescue.
Come experience this wild festival for yourself and make your reservation today at the Lafayette Hotel, located conveniently in the Central Business District, on the route of Running of the Bulls!