For the first time since 2002 and only the fourth time in the United States, Cave Creek, AZ, a charming dusty, Old West-style town of 5,000 people, in the foothills just north of Phoenix, will host a Running of the Bulls on Saturday and Sunday, October 15-16.
The event will take place on a privately-owned quarter-mile track in town. About 1,000 participants and 10,000 spectators are expected, according to AZCentral.com.
But it will be without the blessing of town officials who have withdrawn their support because the organizer did not come up with the $3,000,000 insurance policy he promised.
Cave Creek Mayor Vincent Francia announced, "He had a $1-million policy, and that did not seem to me to be adequate enough to protect the town in the event something went wrong,"
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Even though he says he cannot stop an event on private property, Mayor Francia stated, "I'm responsible for my town, and I can't assume that just because it went well in Mesquite, Nevada, that it's going to go well here.”
He added that he has received dozens of e-mails from animal lovers and activists in and outside Arizona objecting to an event they believe constitutes animal cruelty. An on-line petition collected around 2,000 signatures in opposition.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals calls the event cruel and unsafe, and Delcianna Winders of PETA, states, “We are urging the public to exercise a little compassion and boycott the event.”
"I must admit, there is something about this event, it is so Cave Creek. The town is feisty like that. But I really don't know if I've had a good night's sleep since this started," Mayor Francia stated.
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He recalls that a few years ago at Wild West Days, a rodeo event that draws thousands annually to Cave Creek, a scared horse threw its rider, who hit his head on the road and died.
Phil Immordino of Phoenix is the organizer of the Cave Creek event and says that the risks are outweighed by the adrenaline rush. “I guarantee that anyone who gets in our run will have more of a rush than they've ever had in their life," he said. However, he’s not denying that liability for promoters is an issue.
Immordino compares the bull run to an extreme sport. “Absolutely, it’s dangerous,” he told the NY Times. “But at the same time, it’s not as dangerous as Spain.”
He hopes to make the bull run an annual AZ event.
John Hetzel, owner of the bulls, says the bulls for the AZ Run have been specially selected for their even, calm temperament. Hetzel is a bullfighter and rodeo clown from Gilbert, AZ, and raises bulls for Spear J Cattle.
Unlike the Spanish bulls, which are later used for bullfighting after the annual Pamplona run, the Cave Creek bulls will return to Gilbert and then be taken all over the U.S. to work in rodeos, Hetzel told reporters.
They are slower than the fighting bulls that run in Pamplona, Spain, and their horns have been blunted, he said. Still, these bulls weigh between 800 and 1,500 pounds each and they will be chasing after hundreds of humans, so being trampled or gored is a real possibility.
"I don't really think the size matters," Hetzel said. "It's like getting run over with a VW bug or a truck. They both hurt."
In the 420-year-old traditional Bull Run in Spain, thousands of thrill seekers and guys with a little too much machismo demonstrate their bravado in a terrifying run from angry bulls. Runners often trip over each other in a mad dash from angry bulls. Then they party in the streets all night to celebrate.
”Gorings and tramplings are common,” according to the Associated Press, “and 15 people have been killed since record-keeping started in 1924, most recently a 27-year-old Spanish runner who was gored in the chest and neck in 2009.”
"Remember, we're in America, not Spain. Everyone's sue-happy," said Immordino, who organized similar runs in 1998 and 1999 in Mesquite, Nev., and in 2002 in Scottsdale, Ariz. No one was killed or seriously injured in any of those runs, he states.
However, as a sign of the times, runners must put their signature on a seven-page waiver that reads:
"Warning: This activity and your participation in that activity can cause serious injury or even death, and you hereby agree to assume all risks.”
All runners also sign a medical form saying they have not had any booze or drugs before the run, and that they aren't getting treated for certain medical conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure, epilepsy, alcoholism or pregnancy, among others, says Immordino.
According to the NY Times, Immordino confirms he has $1 million in coverage, and the bulls' owner has insurance; the owner of the land where the bull run will take place has another one million.
Just in case, though, there will be paramedics and escape routes to allow runners to veer away from bulls that get too close.
Immordino is also considering renting out helmets and protective gear for elbows and knees to further reduce his liability.
The Foothill Focus: http://www.thefoothillsfocus.com/101211-RunningBulls.asp