PAMPLONA, Spain — Thousands of revelers crammed into the main square and adjacent narrow streets of northern Pamplona on Sunday for the start of Spain’s famed San Fermin running of the bulls festival – a potent mix of adrenaline and alcohol-fueled celebrations that span over a week.
The fiesta, an uproarious blend of hair-raising daily bull runs and all-night partying, was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.” The event still attracts huge crowds – and headlines of people being injured by the bulls – every year.
Revelers wearing traditional white outfits trimmed with red neckerchiefs and cummerbunds gathered for the noontime launching of a firework rocket, which signals the beginning of the nine-day festival.
Pamplona is located just south of the Rioja vineyard region, and wine has for centuries played an important role in the celebrations, which commemorate the city’s patron saint.
On Sunday, festival-goers drank from traditional leather wine pouches, or delighted in spraying the liquid over each other. Others poured wine from balconies overhead.
The first of eight bull runs is set to begin Monday when thousands of thrill-seekers will aspire to run alongside six fearsome bulls down a narrow 875-yard course through the city’s streets.
Late in the afternoon the bulls will face matadors and be killed in the ring.
Dozens of people are injured each year in the runs. Most get hurt after tripping and falling in the rush, but some are gored and trampled by the large, muscle-laden beasts.
The fighting bulls used in the centuries-old fiesta can weigh up to at 1,380 pounds and have killed 15 people since record-keeping began in 1924.
The regional government of Navarra said this year’s festivities would be patrolled by 3,500 police to keep the events as safe as possible.
Animal rights activists protested Saturday, warning that 48 bulls are killed at the festival each year.