The San Fermin Festival

The Running of the Bulls



sash throng exuberant
pack root (2) kerchief
honor bandana patron saint
faith procession decapitate
patron care (2) martyrdom
smooth capacity there’s no question
plenty towering to this day
frolic mystique giant (2)
obscure inspire spectacle
dusty literary erupt (2)
rage playful in control
go on mass (2) spectator
claim vantage vantage point
revel barrier crack of dawn
rocket sweep (2) anticipation
set up board (2) out of the way
event thrilling on course
release take off stampede
arena pen (2) gallop
route thunder as long as possible
gore trample cobblestone
cruel scramble unscathed
doom channel ring (2)
rush highlight all day long
replay finale fill in


Video (You can stop at 4:30.)





We’re here in early July for the Festival of San Fermin — and that means the Running of the Bulls, one of Europe’s most exuberant festivals.

For nine days each July, throngs of visitors, most dressed in the traditional white with red sashes and kerchiefs, come to run with the bulls…and a whole lot more.

The festival, which packs this city, has deep roots.

For centuries, the people of this region have honored Saint Fermin, their patron saint, with processions and parties. He was decapitated in the second century for his faith.

And the red bandanas you see everywhere are a distant reminder of is martyrdom.

And you know, I don’t think anyone knows this — or even cares.

But at the Church of San Fermin, it’s a capacity crowd. And there’s no question about what to wear for this mass. To this day, locals look to their hometown saint for protection.

Back on the streets, it’s a party for young and old. There’s plenty of fun for kids. And towering giants add a playful mystique to the festivities.

The literary giant, Ernest Hemingway, is celebrated by Pamplona as if he were a native son.

Hemingway first came here for the 1923 Running of the Bulls. Inspired by the spectacle, he later wrote his bull fighting classic, The Sun Also Rises.

He said he enjoyed seeing two wild animals running together: one on two legs, the other on four.

Hemingway put Pamplona on the world map.

When he first visited, it was a dusty town of thirty thousand with an obscure bull fighting festival.

Now over a million people come here for one of the world’s great parties. After dark, the town erupts into a frolicking party scene.

While the craziness rages day and night, the city’s well organized, and even with all the alcohol, it feels in control, and things go smoothly.

Amazingly, in just a few hours, this same street will host a very different spectacle.

The Running of the Bulls takes place early each morning. Spectators claim a vantage point along the barrier at the crack of dawn.

Early in the morning?


For many of these revelers, it’s still late at night.

The anticipation itself is thrilling.

Security crews sweep those not running out of the way. Shop windows and doors are boarded up. Fencing is set up to keep the bulls on course and to protect the crowd.

The runners are called mozos. While many are finishing up a night of drinking, others train for the event. They take the ritual seriously and run every year.

At eight o’clock, a rocket is fired, and the mozos take off.

Moments later, a second rocket means the bulls have been released. They stamped half-a-mile through the town to the pens of the bull fighting arena.

At full gallop, it goes by fast…bulls thunder through the entire route in just two-and-a-half minutes.

The mozos try to run in front of the bulls for as long as possible — usually just a few seconds before diving out of the way.

They say on a good run, you feel the breath of the bull on the back of your legs.

Cruel as this seems for the bulls, who scramble for footing on the cobblestones as they rush toward their doom in the bull ring, the humans don’t come out unscathed.

Each year, dozens of people are gored or trampled.

Over the last century, fifteen mozos have been killed in the event.

After it’s done, people gather for breakfast and view the highlights on TV. All day long, local channels replay that morning’s spectacle.

The finale of each day is in the evening, when crowds fill the bull ring. Pamplona’s arena, third largest in the world after Madrid and Mexico City, is sold out each day of the festival.


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1. The official name of the festival is “The Running of the Bulls”. True or false?

2. The festival honors, Saint Fermin, the city’s patron saint. Is this correct or wrong?

3. Do people celebrate the Festival of San Fermin only with the Running of the Bulls?

4. Who was Ernest Hemingway? Is he honored in Pamplona? Why is he honored?

5. Has Pamplona remained the same since 1923? How has it changed?

6. Hemingway wrote that he enjoyed seeing two wild animals running together: one on two legs, the other on four. What does this mean?

7. Who are the mozos? What do they do?

8. How long is the route? How long does it last?

9. There is a festive and party atmosphere. True or false?
A. Have you seen the Running of the Bulls before (on TV)?

B. What do you think of this event?

C. Why do the people run with bulls?

D. I would to run with bulls. Yes or no? Would you like to visit the festival?

E. The San Fermin Festival is great for the local economy. Do you agree?

G. Do you think the Running of the Bulls is controversial? Does controversy surround the Running of the Bulls?

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