Entertainment-Deprived Californians Get Their First Running of the Bulls

Monday, July 28, 2014
Running of the bulls at Alameda County Fairgrounds (photo: Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group)

After two cancelled events earlier in the year, Californians finally got a chance to antagonize 1,500-pound wild animals by dashing madly about in front of them during the state’s first running of the bulls at the Alameda Country Fairgrounds in Pleasanton on Saturday.

The Great Bull Run, attended by 2,500 paying customers, was just like the famed runs in Spain, except instead of hurtling through town from the stockyards to a bullring, they ran briefly around a racetrack. Unlike in Spain, there is no 700-year tradition and no bullfight and more animal abuse afterward. That is illegal.

Those participating in the bull run outnumbered by a thousand the number of people who signed an online petition at change.org protesting it. The petition asked the mayor of Pleasanton and council members to deny The Great Bull Run LLC, a Boston-based company, a permit for the event. They did not. 

Perhaps they are fans of the ABC show “Shark Tank.” In April, billionaire Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and one of the show’s sharks, invested $1.75 million for a 25% stake in Bull Run’s parent company, Rugged Races, after listening to co-owner Rob Dickens make his pitch.

“People are looking for more than just a passive experience these days,” Dickens said. “It's not enough to go to the movies for two hours. They want interaction. They want to get involved.”

Cuban, an early investor in software technology and Internet radio before diversifying, said he was “anticipating the explosion of experiential entertainment.

Don’t play the video game. Be the video game.

Around 40 animal rights protesters, organized by Direct Action Everywhere, chanted slogans and waved signs near the entrance, but a crowd about to risk their lives dashing ahead of snorting bulls was not deterred.

Forty-four-year-old former cancer patient Esmeraldo Hurtado told the San Francisco Chronicle she wasn’t going to let the loss of vision in one eye and borderline multiple sclerosis stop her from joining 25 relatives in the festivities. They paid between $50 and $75 each to run a quarter mile, in one of four groups, each with seven bulls in hot pursuit.

An 82-year-old man ran twice and ended up with a bandaged wrist. KTVU said a number of people fell down and at least two people were taken to the hospital. Their injuries were said to be minor. 

Although this was California’s first bull run, organizers had staged eight others around the country. A June 21 run in the Southern California city of Temecula was called off after failing to get a permit from Riverside County. Another run scheduled for Lake Elsinore March 8 was also cancelled.

The bull run is part of day-long activities that include music, food, drinking and a “Tomato Royale” food fight.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Great Bull Run Draws Thousands to County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton (by Rebecca Parr, Hayward Daily Review)

Pleasanton: Thrill Seekers Stampede to Run with Bulls (by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle)

Bull Run Draws Huge Crowds, Protesters (by Cristina Redon, KTVU)

California’s Newest Blood Sport: Running of the Bulls (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

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