July 11, 2013 11:00 AM
In 2002, Mickey Hanning crossed running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, off his bucket list. Returning home, Hanning wanted to recreate in New Orleans that feeling of terror and adrenaline one has when a 1,700 pound animal with hoofs and horns pursues you.
Hanning and his wife Beth spoke with their friend Tracey Bellina, a graphic designer for Tulane University, who envisioned roller derby girls as perfect to generate that kind of fear.
The New Orleans roller derby team, the Big Easy Rollergirls, was game. In the early hours of July 7, 2007, 200 runners in white and red and 13 rollergirls with soft bats in hand and horns on their helmets raced through the sleepy streets of the French Quarter, creating terror and “goring” anyone who got in their way.
The New Orleans encierro may have started as an underground gathering, but the NOLA Bulls four-day event now benefits charities and has more than 15,000 runners and 400 “rollerbulls” from around the world.
This year, the 7th Annual San Fermin in Nueva Orleans is taking place July 7–11, with the running of the “bulls” on Saturday (July 13) beginning at 8 a.m. in New Orleans' warehouse district.
“I never had expectations,” Bellina states, “but I have always believed in the event.” The rollergirls, who train for their competitive sport year-round, look forward to the event to release some steam.
Andrew Ward, a PhD candidate in international development at Tulane (and ordained minister), has been the official “pontiff” since the beginning.
The event boosts the local economy during the slow summer months, but its madcap fun transcends that.
Ward has blessed dozens of babies, witnessed marriage proposals, and officiated during the wedding of a Navy Seal. Ward claims he gathers “all the energy and focuses it like a joyous laser beam on the rest of the world.”
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 firstname.lastname@example.org