No Bull! Westporters Run At Pamplona

Rick Benson, Jack Fanning, Drew Murphy and Rod Smith met in 1988. All had toddlers. They — the adults, that is — helped plan and build the Compo Beach playground.

It was dangerous work. Not the physical labor — just getting it approved was tough. There was significant opposition: It will ruin the vista! Teenagers will hang out there, drinking and having sex! It will attract out-of-towners!

But they — and others — persisted. Today the beach playground is one of our town’s great attractions.

The men have remained friends ever since. This year, they decided to do something even scarier than building that playground.

They would run with the bulls at Pamplona.

The bulls at Pamplona.

If you’ve been living under a rock all these years — or hanging out at a playground — and never heard of that bizarre ritual, it’s this:

Every year, for 9 days during the Feast of Saint Fermin, over 1,000 people join 6 bulls (and 6 herding steers) in the narrow, winding medieval streets of the Spanish town.

The men — and the runners are nearly all male (go figure) — try not to get gored or (yes) killed in the 2-minute race to a large bull ring. Once inside, there’s even more chasing — and being chased by — the bulls.

What could be more fun?!

RB and Rick Benson in the Plaza del Toro bull ring, Pamplona.

The Westporters were joined by others: Benson’s son RB, Fanning’s son Mikey and Smith’s son Tyler; Joey Laurita and his cousin Bryan.

All have Westport connections.

They spent 3 days in Pamplona. They watched one day from the balcony of La Perla — the same hotel where Ernest Hemingway stayed, when he wrote “The Sun Also Rises.” The 1926 novel lifted an obscure Spanish ritual into a worldwide phenomenon.

All ran at least one day with the bulls.

(From left): RB Benson, Joey Laurita, Mike Fanning, Joey’s cousin Bryan and Tyler Smith. They all look relieved — and alive.

“It’s not as scary as it’s sometimes portrayed,” Rick Benson reports.

However, he notes, “Some people are definitely less cautious than we were.”

The craziest folks are in front of the bulls, or near their horns. The Westport contingent ran alongside the 1,500-pound animals.

Which is why they’re back home today, able to tell this great tale.

(PS: Rick Benson does not know what everyone else’s next adventure is. But this fall, he heads to Africa. He’s spent the past months raising funds with Rotary Clubs throughout the state. In Kenya, he’ll help oversee a $135,000 school renovation. In Nigeria, it’s a $120,000 water sanitation project. Both are a long way from Pamplona — and the Compo Beach playground.)

Running with the bulls sure gives you an appetite. The Westport contingent dined well.

12 responses to “No Bull! Westporters Run At Pamplona

  1. Christine Bisceglie

    Hhmm. They look happy. Too bad the famous event ends in animal slaughter. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer here. I too thought to visit this event during my recent stay in Spain. Although temping to go , after studying up , I decided not to encourage this seemingly primitive activity .

  2. Bob Stalling

    Has anyone calculated the carbon footprint of a trip to run with the Bulls vs. a main street merchant leaving a door open?
    Just curious….

    • Ellen Wentworth

      Would the bull seek AC?!

      • Hey, Ellen- have you seen the current Geico commercial, “Running with the Bull Dogs?”

        OMG! Too cute…more my speed. Not sure if it would impact the carbon footprint…smaller feet (paws vs hooves),

        I know that much. LOL LOL

  3. Cornelia Fortier

    Disappointing. Such a foolish and I humane event.

  4. Cornelia Fortier

    Should read “inhumane”

  5. This ritual is as cruel to animals as is bull fighting or rodeo….a research into the injuries sustained by bulls(if humans are injured in the event, they deserve it) slipping, running into each other or to store fronts is appalling and anyone partici[ating or encouraging the runs should be ashamed.

  6. Because it’s “where Westport meets the world.” It’s a story about what Westporters are doing, all over the place.

  7. Bill Cowherd

    Great to see Americans abroad embracing European traditions rather than trying to change them. Bucket list!

  8. Nancy Hunter

    There once was a news item about a man who actually participated in the event WITH his young son, and so when his ex-wife just happened to spot them on television “dad” naturally lost all visitation rights!

    While I’d probably view the run in Pamplona, I’ve boycotted the Calgary Stampede for decades.

  9. Mary Gladden

    Such animal cruelty is sad. Perhaps as people become more educated on this barbaric ritual, they will realize that causing animals to suffer should have no place in a modern, civilized society.

  10. Wendy Newton

    An ex-Westporter of more than 40 years, I now live in Massachusetts where, I am proud to say, animal cruelty is against the law and punishable by jail time. Bull fighting, bull running, and anything associated with those so-called ‘sports’ qualify as animal cruelty. Not cool, people.