The Great Bull Run and Tomato Royale come to the Alameda County Fairgrounds today, but the events are not for the faint-hearted or those with coveted clothes.
The thrilling, day-long festival appeals to runners and spectators alike for being an Americana version of the world-renowned Running of the Bulls, which has taken place in Pamplona, Spain for centuries, including earlier this month. This year marks the first time the event has come to the U.S., with Pleasanton and Los Angeles their only West Coast stops.
Both the Bull Run and tomato-tossing fest are unique forms of entertainment, designed explicitly for thrill-seeking and fun-loving individuals.
Co-founders of the organization that's bringing the bull run to the States, Rob Dickens and Brad Scudder, wanted Americans to experience and watch this time-honored Spanish event.
To make it more accessible and dynamic, they worked with entrepreneur Mark Cuban of Mark Cuban Companies famously investing in The Great Bull Run on the "Shark Tank" show on ABC in April. More than 25,000 participants turned out, including a 72-year old woman in Texas, with fans calling it "the thrill of a lifetime."
Dickens and Scudder believe the event is well on its way to being among the greatest of American festivals.
Here's how it will work in Pleasanton. Running with The Bulls is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today. Runners will experience the thrill of a lifetime as they enter a one-quarter-mile stretch of of the Fairground's horse track with two sets of 20 1,500-pound bulls who run at a clip of 35 miles per hour.
Dickens, who has run with the bulls a dozen times himself, insists that no sprint or running training is necessary to run with the bulls, just a heavy dose of courage, a willingness to grab life by the horns and a desire for the kind of rush that comes from doing something so unusual.
To add to the challenge, Dickens says he has ramped up the excitement factor by partnering with Lone Star Rodeo out of Crofton, Ky., to handpick the best and rowdiest bulls this side of the Atlantic. At the same time, he's decreased the risk of serious injury by providing course fencing for runners to climb and, most importantly, selecting bulls without sharpened horns like those in Spain.
There will be three different sessions for running with the bulls, but the thrill of the run is not cheap.
Pending availability, tickets will be available at the gate for $60. A ticket includes: one running with the bulls, one Tomato Royale food fight, access to the day-long festival featuring great music, tasty food, fun games and cold beer, and access to all spectator areas for both the bull run and the tomato fights. You must be 18 or older to buy a ticket and, of course, at least 21 to drink beer.
The tomato fight, by the way, doesn't start until 3 p.m. so that those who survive the bull run can join in. It's inspired by Spain's famous La Tomatina festival, which dates back to 1945. When the music starts, participants sprint to the massive mound of tomatoes piled in the center of the arena and the food fight begins. In this wild and friendly battle, it's every person for themselves as tomatoes are hurled at family, friends and strangers.
While Bull Run tickets include the tomato fest, you can also pay just $45 for this event alone. Spectators can watch it all from a safe distance next to the race track for just $10.
For more information, sign on to www.thegreatbullrun.com/ n