San Fermin 2012 exploded to life this morning at the Chupinazo, the festival’s opening ceremony. Michael Hemingway, Ernest’s great-grandson was on a balcony above the raucous crowd and took these stills:
The Chupinazo is not for the light of heart or body. Several lighter-weight people passed out and were crowdsurfed to the edge of the mob where Red Cross medics waited. We decided to have a chat with one man who has survived three decades' worth of Chupinazo’s: “El Padre” Graeme Galloway.
What is Chupinazo like for you? And why do you return each year?
Chupinazo is like a giant rugby-scrum. There’s so much pressure you can hardly breathe. People of slight build can’t make it. About 10 minutes before 12 noon and the mayor’s blessing I think to myself, Why did I do this? But the euphoria of the blessing ... it’s worth it. Chupinazo is like Everest; I go back every year because it’s there.
What happened in 1980 the day one bull killed two people?
The bull that killed both the runners nearly gored me in the Telefonica section. I sort of sucked up against the fence. Then I ran into the arena and watched the bull kill the other runner in the ring. I didn’t know he was dead when I saw it, but it looked bad.
What’s it like when you wake up in the morning and you know you’re going to run with the bulls?
I piss myself. I sit up on the couch and I think happy thoughts. I think of bunny rabbits and pink ponys. I think of everything I can that will keep my mind off those bulls I’ll be running with.
What is Fiesta to you?
Fiesta is the greatest party on earth.
How have you become so well-connected in the City of Pamplona?
Over 30 years you get to know people. They call me the Scottish Mayor Daley of Pamplona but I don’t think it’s to that extreme. I’ve just made a few friends.
What is the Pamplona Posse?
It’s a business, but it’s not. Being part of the Posse is like getting the keys to the city. You’re right in the heart of the action. A lot of tour groups need to take busses to get to Chupinazo and the run. When you’re with the Posse you just step right out the front door.
After 30-plus Fiesta’s what brings you back each year?
It’s the friends, the mates. The run, the party, the bullfights—they’re a lot of fun, but it's people you meet, the friends you make. They can last a lifetime.
This year the City of Pamplona banned jumping from the fountain.
Lisa from Sydney, Australia, (above) was the first to jump from the fountain anyway.
“I didn’t know it was outlawed,” she said with a wild grin. “I saw photos of a guy jumping from it last year and I said, I’ve got to do that!”
The first fountain jumping injury of San Fermin 2012 was a possible broken big toe (above).
Galloway joined the crew that was catching jumpers when a bald man in a red shirt unzipped Galloway’s pants-pocket and tried to snatch his cash. Galloway gave him a shove and chased him through the cobblestone streets. The man blended into the thick crowd and disappeared. Moral of the story: When at Fiesta, keep an eye out for pick-pockets.