Until now, the most famous Bull Run in Virginia was a bloody Civil War clash fought in Manassas. That's set to change on Saturday, Aug. 24, when the Great Bull Run brings fierce animals and thousands of thrill-seekers to a drag strip just south of Petersburg.
The first-time event is patterned after the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and will take place at Virginia Motorsports Park in the small community of North Dinwiddie. The event will also include a post-run tomato fight, also modeled on an oddball Spanish tradition.
All these festivities are presented by a Boston-based company that intends to host similar events at nine other locations across the country through July of 2014.
It seems that interest in this kickoff event has been strong.
"Everything's going as planned," Rob Dickens, chief operating officer for The Great Bull Run LLC, said this week. "We're expecting 10,000 to 12,000 people."
The Virginian-Pilot reported that 4,000 people have signed up to run on Saturday. Dickens said that day-of registration will be available, but that all spots in four scheduled runs are expected to be filled by noon that day.
"In the Virginia Beach and Norfolk area, there are tons of people who love exciting outdoor adventures like this," he said.
Jack Hall, a 54-year-old roofing contractor from Newport News, is one of them. He plans to sprint along the quarter-mile course along with his 31-year-old son, Erik.
Why does he like the idea of fleeing from 1,000-pound bulls?
"I think a wild hair, I don't know," he said Thursday. "It seems relatively safer than the one in Pamplona ... I tried to get a bunch of buddies to do it. They were all about it until they talked to their wives."
Hall said he's not typically the daredevil type. He doesn't sky dive or bungee jump. "I'm in the roofing industry. The thrill of falling doesn't appeal to me. I sail and I was into motorcycles, but other than that ... I live a fairly mundane life. This should spice it up a little bit."
The event has drawn national media attention to the region. The Washington Post recently reported on complaints by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society.
Safety has also been questioned. Participants will be required to sign waivers.
"This is not meant to re-create Pamplona," Dickens told the Washington Post. "We're not re-creating the San Fermin festival where they prayed to saints. We're not doing the bull fight. What we've done is we've taken the fun aspect of it, and we've brought it here as its own event ... We don't want to co-opt other countries' cultures. We just want to have a fantastic, adventurous event that people have a chance to do here in the U.S."
Want to go?
What: The Great Bull Run and Tomato Royale. In a new event modeled after the famous tradition in Pamplona, Spain, the run allows thrill seekers the chance to sprint along a course ahead of two dozen 1,000-pound bulls or steers. A tomato fight, patterned after another Spanish tradition, will follow.
When: 11 a.m., noon, 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24.
Tickets: Registration will be allowed on the day of the event, but a sellout is expected by noon. $75 to run and throw tomatoes, $40 for tomatoes only, $10 for spectators.
Where: Virginia Motorsports Park, 8018 Boydton Plank Road, North Dinwiddie, southwest of Petersburg.
More information: www.thegreatbullrun.com/events/virginia-2013/, www.vmpdrag.com/Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun