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Running With the Bulls plans Salt Lake City event for 2014

Published August 26, 2013 8:54 pm

Event • Site yet to be picked, but likely to be on private land.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Thrill-seekers wishing to come within goring range of a stampeding bull may be able to save on airfare next year.

Running With the Bulls USA announced last week their intent to host an event in Salt Lake City in July 2014, although RWB founder Phil Immordino says the exact date and location haven't been hammered out. He believes it will take place on privately owned, urban land near city boundaries.

Immordino says runners sign detailed waivers — "Your neighbor's neighbor's cousin couldn't sue us" — and that he has no concern about violating any state or municipal laws.

Thus far, he says, injuries have been few. Last year in Cave Creek, Ariz., one runner was taken to the hospital and needed 10 staples in his head. But unlike the bulls in the famed San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain — where a University of Utah student was gored earlier this year — the RWB stock are not trained to be aggressive toward people. Their horns are also dulled to prevent injury.

"They may trample on you or step on you or push you out of the way," he said.

Cowboys on horses chase the bulls down the quarter-mile track, which is lined by a 3-foot fence that runners can hurdle if they need to escape. There is also a 6-foot outer fence to keep the bulls from getting loose — a possibility that Immordino acknowledges, but says is razor-thin.

He admits animal rights activists have objected to his events "since Day 1," and that he has even gotten death threats. But "these people have lost a lot of their credibility," he says. "They complain when the circus comes to town."

He says the bulls are "treated like royalty," fed well and happy to run for a short distance.

Alicia Woempner, special projects manager for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, wrote in a statement to The Tribune that such events are "unsafe, unsporting and un-American."

"Human participants willingly risk being seriously injured or killed by panicked animals, but the bulls who will be tormented can't opt out," Woempner wrote. "Upset by loud noises and crowds of people, they will run for their lives and can trample runners and injure themselves in the process. ... Every kind person opposes it, rightly asserting that this kind of macho-rubbish cruelty has no place in an enlightened society."

Ticket details are not yet available for Salt Lake City. Cost of this year's Cave Creek event is $30 per run. They plan to offer six races on Saturday and six races on Sunday, and expect to draw 15,000 people.

Running With the Bulls got its start in 1998 in Mesquite, Nev. Immordino was arrested shortly after the event for zoning violations, but they returned to Mesquite the following year. Then, after a three-year hiatus, Immordino says they drew 8,000 spectators and 700 runners for a 2002 event in Scottsdale, Ariz., but the events of 9/11 caused insurance rates to go "through the ceiling."

It was nine years before the next Running With the Bulls, this one in Cave Creek. Their third Cave Creek event is slated for October, and they plan to host an event in Las Vegas in April 2014. Immordino says he hopes all three locations — Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, and Cave Creek (on the outskirts of Phoenix) — will become annual.

mpiper@sltrib.com

Twitter: @matthew_piper