Thousands of Chicago-area people will get a taste of Spain Saturday at the first local staging of The Great Bull Run.
The Americanized and tamer version of Pamplona's famous Running of the Bulls takes place at Hawthorne Race Course in south suburban Stickney.
"It's a legendary event. Everyone knows about it; it's a bucket list item. But it's the danger that draws people to it. People want to test themselves. They want to see, 'Do I have what it takes to go out there with these massive animals and run alongside of them?'" organizer Rob Dickens said.
Dickens says he came up with the idea after he tried to go to the Pamplona event in 2012 but found traveling to Spain prohibitive.
"You have to book everything about a year in advance, and it costs about $4,000 a person for your flights and all that. So that's when I decided, why not bring something similar here to the U.S. to make it more accessible?" Dickens said.
Event organizers say they won't be using the kind of hyper-aggressive bulls that run in the Pamplona version. The Hawthorne bull run will also incorporate a safety fence that participants can climb, and riders on horses will follow the bulls and lasso the animals in case one gets too aggressive.
Last year, officials from the Humane Society of the United States requested an investigation into what they called an "unlicensed event," and complained the event posed a danger to the animals.
But Dickens says that worry is unfounded.
"The federal government did look into what we were doing and said there's nothing to see here. Basically, we don't hit the bulls to make them run, or shock them, or do anything else. It's their natural stampede instinct to run when they see one of their fellows running," Dickens said.
The Hawthorne event falls days after a Chicago author was injured during the Pamplona event.
Photo Credit: TheGreatbullrun.com