Running-of-the-bulls event at Canterbury has some seeing red

  • Article by: JEREMY OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 5, 2013 - 7:51 AM

Latest extreme thrill event has tentative date at Canterbury horse track.

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The San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, has inspired plans for bull runs in 10 U.S. cities, including Shakopee.

Photo: Alvaro Barrientos, Associated Press

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If running breathlessly from a snorting, charging, 2,500-pound bull sounds like your kind of thrill, you might not have to pack your bags for Pamplona, Spain, anymore.

A running-of-the-bulls style event is in the works for Shakopee, Minn.

A promotional group recently announced the Great Bull Run series that will pit man vs. beast in 10 locations around the United States over the next year — including a tentative date at Canterbury Park horse race track on May 14. Runners will navigate a quarter-mile section of the track, which will be lined with nooks and scalable fences in case they need to evade the bulls.

While animal rights groups are dismayed, Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke said he would welcome the event if the leadership at Canterbury had vetted it and felt it was safe. The mayor rode in, and won, a camel race at Canterbury last year, but said he won’t be coaxed into this event.

“That’s not in my wheel house. I mean, the camel race was pushing the line for what I’m comfortable with,” he said. “As a guy with a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old, I have no desire to put myself in harm’s way at this time. But that doesn’t mean its not someone else’s choice.”

Organizers said they will be partnering with ranches to provide bulls, which won’t be as aggressive as those used in the famed Pamplona event, which draws 20,000 runners every summer and has reported 15 deaths in its 102-year history.

“We’re not using the Spanish fighting bulls that are bred to be very aggressive for the entertaining aspect of bullfighting,” said Rob Dickens, co-founder and chief operating officer of the Great Bull Run. Nor will the bulls be slaughtered at the end.

Last month in Spain, a University of Utah college student and an Australian woman were gored by bulls. During one run, participants and spectators screamed as a bull tossed a Spaniard to the ground and attacked him, with fellow runners trying to pull the animal away by its tail. The man was eventually dragged to safety.

The first American bull run will take place Aug. 24 at a drag-racing strip south of Richmond, Va. About 5,000 people have signed up so far. Dickens said the event capitalizes on the growing popularity of extreme off-road runs and obstacle races, such as the Rugged Maniac 5K events that he also organizes in 20 states.

“This is all part of the evolution of activities that people are getting involved in,” he said. “It used to be that you would run down the sidewalk and then you had these 5Ks and then marathons. And then they evolved into triathlons because, quite honestly, running down the middle of the street is boring.”

Many Americans are enthralled with the Pamplona event but lack the resources to travel there. The American bull runs will be festive and will be coupled with tomato fights, concerts and other activities.

“You’ll run with the bulls very briefly, but that period of time will be action-packed for sure,” said Dickens, who plans to run in the Virginia event.

No agreement yet

Whether the event progresses to Shakopee is no sure thing, though. While organizers are already promoting the local event — and permitting online registration — they have not reached a contract to use Canterbury on the proposed date. Canterbury spokesman Jeff Maday said track officials will likely attend the first event in Virginia first to see if it is a good and safe attraction.

“We told them they could put it on the calendar, but we have no agreement with them at all,” he said.

Even so, 500 people have already registered and Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has been picked as a charitable partner.

But Charlotte Cozzetto of Eden Prairie, president of the Animal Rights Coalition called the run “a really dumb idea.” She wonders how organizers will prompt the bulls to run.

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