Ok, ok. So I can’t take ownership of that clever heading. The credit for that gem goes out to my friend Sue Kinzie and her brilliantly crafted 2006 article in the Washington Post, which I highly recommend perusing if you have a moment to get a true feel for the comeuppance of this event.
The Dewey Beach Running of the Bull (ROTB) has held a special place for many of my good friends over the past 15 years. Albeit, that place may have been the latter end of a two-man bull costume running down the beach for several sweat-filled miles (among other places that will not be discussed to protect the innocent), but I digress. More so, it brings to us a sense of overly-feigned chivalry and an ever-so-fleeting notion of the pomp and circumstance that occurs each year in Spain for the celebrated Running of the Bulls event taking place in the storied streets of Pamplona.
Yes, it is on this weekend 15 years ago, that the first ever Dewey Beach ROTB took place. A dream conceived, like most ideas in Dewey Beach, with too many cocktails, mid-20’s bravado and a lot of…well…imagination.
Though, I will say that the Dewey Beach bull tends to be a bit more docile than it’s Latin counterpart, it is NOT to be underestimated after several Stolichnaya and Red Bull concoctions…the temptress of choice, and natural beverage selection for any raging bull worth his or her salt.
So come one, come all. Step up to the side show and join in the fun and debauchery that has been a Dewey tradition for 15 years. Join a PETAC protest (see below), throw on your cowbells and red bandanas, break out the vuvuzelas and get running to the beach! Keep reading to learn more from the organizers themselves!
STARBOARD TO HOST 15th ANNUAL DEWEY BEACH RUNNING OF THE BULL.
MADCAP ANTICS TO ENSUE, EXPERTS PREDICT.
DEWEY BEACH, DE – On Saturday, July 9, 2011, the Starboard Restaurant & Bar will host the 15th Annual Dewey Beach Running of the Bull, a homage to Spain’s Festival of San Fermin. For one day, the small beach town of Dewey will again aspire to become Pamplona at the peak of fiesta, as crowds begin gathering at the Starboard by 11 AM, waiting for the arrival of the Bull.
The Dewey gathering is quite different from the Pamplona original. There is only one bull, for instance, and- perhaps more relevantly- that bull is actually just two people in a bull costume. Nevertheless, the Starboard event shares many elements of San Fermin, such as the unabashed revelry, the good natured mayhem, and the overall festival atmosphere. Event planners anticipate over 2000 attendees, the largest crowd the event has ever drawn.
“Organizing so many people for one of the silliest events ever is priceless!” said Steve Montgomery, the Starboard’s managing owner. “Thousands of people arrive in our small town of Dewey Beach to participate in what has become one of their favorite days of the year. The people of Dewey Beach recognize the Bull Running as a yearly holiday and offer so much support to help the effort be successful. I get calls from across the country, sometimes as early as March, families want to know when this year’s running is, so they can plan their weekly rental and vacation to be there.”
Michael McDonnell, one of the Bull Running’s founders, muses, “It’s amazing that this stunt, started by about 30 people in 1997, has grown exponentially into such a huge event. It’s impressive, the costumes, props, and traditions that people bring with them each year. And now they bring their kids to run. It’s cool to see that kind of longevity and dedication to an event that, bottom line, is just silliness for silliness’s sake. It’s a big messy party that has graduated to an even bigger tradition, though still pretty messy. That’s oddly heartwarming.”
The Starboard’s parking lot is converted into an outdoor festivity area, with cocktail bars and grandstands, by special permit with the town. Bull runners dress in the classic white clothing (T-shirts, usually) and red bandanas, while others don less traditional bikini tops, kilts, clown wigs, and “the like”. Runners indulge in cold beverages, loud music, and opening ceremonies.
This year’s opening ceremony will include a dedication of an Ernest Hemingway bust, mirroring Hemingway’s memorial in Pamplona’s Plaza de Toros. Quoting Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, which popularized the Pamplona running in the 1930’s, McDonnell suggests that the merriment in Dewey is akin to that of Pamplona: “The things that happened could only have happened during a fiesta. Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences.”
To chants of “Olé Olé Olé!”, the Bull arrives at about 1 PM. The front of the bull costume will be dutifully manned by Garrett Walsh, who has held the position since 2000. “Eleven straight years. Wow,” Walsh reflected on his tenure in the costume. “Can anyone seriously doubt that on the Mt. Rushmore of greatest sports streaks you’d now find three names: Ripken, DiMaggio, Walsh (not necessarily in that order)? Seriously, I’d be happy to have that debate.” Walsh will be available for that debate throughout the afternoon of the 10th, following the running.
The back end of the bull for this year’s running has not been finalized at this time.
By 2 PM, the horde of bull runners will move to the beach on Houston St., assisted in transit by the Delaware state police, the Dewey police, and the Dewey Beach Patrol. From there, the Bull chases the runners southward along the water, at a leisurely pace. Participants jog, stroll, skip, and, in many instances, stumble ahead of the lone Bull (which is, again, just two people in a costume) for four or five blocks, then return to the Starboard for a bullfight, at which either a matador or the Bull is slain (though not really). Celebrations continue throughout town, into the early hours of the next day.
In the past few years the event has drawn protests from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal Costumes, also known as “PETAC” (pronounced PEE-tak). These demonstrations have been fruitless in dissuading runners, and- oddly- the protesters themselves, from participating, and despite these ineffectual detractors, the event has thrived over the years.
The Running of the Bull has been able to give back to the town. The Starboard has raised donations at the event of over $40,000 for local causes. “Raising funds through an event like this for our town’s police and firefighters is one of the most gratifying things in the world,” Montgomery says. “Providing such a fun experience for all while helping out our support services is a win-win for all!”
What started at as a joke played by one beach house has become an institution, in the best way possible.
The Starboard is located at the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk, at 2009 Highway One
Dewey Beach, DE 19971. Call 302-227-4600 for information.