DADE CITY — Not everyone can travel to Pamplona, Spain, to participate in the famous Running of the Bulls.
On Saturday, you will only need to travel to Dade City to take part in a similar event.
The Great Bull Run, an American version, will take place at Little Everglades Ranch, but with a few differences.
Although the Pamplona version is free, the Pasco County bull run will cost you $65 for a ticket. And you won’t be running down the winding, narrow streets of Pamplona, but a straight track.
Participants will be running from more bulls than the Spanish version. Pamplona uses 12 bulls, and the Dade City event will have 18 because there are usually so many people participating in the run.
“Think of it as a simulation,” said Rob Dickens, co-founder of The Great Bull Run, “not a replication. We wanted to bring the Running of the Bulls experience here so people can do it — not everyone can just go to Spain.”
Participants can also take part in Spain’s other tradition, Tomatina, or the giant tomato fight, which organizers call Tomato Royal.
Dickens and his business partner, Brad Scudder, two former lawyers who left the legal practice to start a large-event organizing business, created The Great Bull Run last year.
The idea of an American version stemmed from their wanting to go to the annual eight-day-long Running of the Bulls in Pamplona that’s held in early July.
As they started to plan out a bucket-list trip, the planning and prices became unreasonable for them and they didn’t go.
“Are there that many people that can just take off 10 days to go to Pamplona?” Dickens asked. “We couldn’t get a hotel, either. We wanted to have a way for people who can’t get to Spain to have a chance to experience running with the bulls.”
The differences between The Great Bull Run and Pamplona’s Running of the Bulls include logistics and safety, Dickens said.
“Its not as chaotic as Pamplona,” Dickens said. “Our fencing has nooks and places to escape easily, and I would say 70 percent of everyone hangs by the nooks and on the fences, while about 30 percent will be running the whole time.”
Also in Pamplona, there is one run per day, while The Great Bull Run will have six runs for everyone to experience the event.
Dickens said the biggest difference between the American event and Pamplona is that after the Spanish run, there are bullfights in which the bulls are killed in the ring. Dickens called that inhumane.
He said the bulls used at his event are cared for and organized by a Kentucky-based rodeo and have been used in the three previous runs in Richmond, Atlanta and Houston.
Dickens added they’re also expensive animals “that we think of as professional athletes. We want to protect them and keep them healthy and injury free.”
Dickens says his company goes to great lengths to make sure no bull is harmed.
“I’ve gotten hundreds of emails that say we set the bulls on fire and do all these things to them are completely and just outrageously untrue,” Dickens said. “Our first run in Richmond was just miles from the PETA’s headquarters, and then only 12 protesters showed up. Not only is it bad business to hurt the bulls, it’s cruel and something that doesn’t happen to them at all.”
Alicia Woempner, a spokesperson for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), criticized the event, calling it “reckless and inhumane.”
“The bottom line is the event is cruel and dangerous for the humans and the animals involved,” she said.
The Great Bull Run organizers held an event in August near Richmond, Va., with 4,000 people participating on a quarter-mile-long dirt track at Virginia Motorsports Park. Eight groups of 500 people at a time raced with the bulls stampeding down the course, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Although no bulls have been injured, according to organizers, there have been injuries to participants, including a broken pelvis, wrist and plenty of scrapes and bruises. But to Dickens, that’s the point.
“I feel like we’d be cheating people out of their money if there wasn’t a chance of danger or the possibility of injury,” Dickens said. “That is one of the risks you face when you run this, and in the end, there’s less injuries out there than there is in a high school football game.”
The first bull run in Dade City starts at 11 a.m., and the $65 ticket on the day of the event also includes admission to the Tomato Royale, in which participants will scramble through 90,000 tomatoes, all in the hopes of pegging a total stranger with one. Bull run participants must be 18 to run. Spectator tickets are $10. A ticket just to the tomato fight is $35.
“We wanted something wild and crazy for people who weren’t necessarily wild and crazy enough to run with the bulls,” Dickens said. “I’ve run with the bulls and been in the tomato fight each time we’ve done it and its always a blast.”
For information, log onto www.thegreatbullrun .com/events/orlando- 2014.
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected]gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.