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Stickney to run with the bulls Hawthorne Race Course to host Spanish tradition in 2014

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013 1:43 p.m. CST

STICKNEY – For $35, you could experience what it’s like to first be pummeled by raging bulls, then pummeled by tomatoes in July 2014.

To date, about 1,000 people have signed up for a chance to become pudding by running alongside a stampede of bulls when a U.S. version of the famous Spanish tradition comes to the Chicago area in July.

The Great Bull Run, modeled after a festival that takes place each year in Pamplona, Spain, and made famous by writers such as Ernest Hemingway, will hold its first run next month in Richmond, Va. The Great Bull Run also is scheduled to hit at least eight other cities before arriving at Hawthorne Race Course in Stickney on July 12, 2014.

Rob Dickens, COO of the Great Bull Run, LLC., said Hawthorne Race Course seemed like a perfect fit when he and his group were looking for a Chicago area venue.

“This was ideal,” he said. “Some of our other venues are race tracks or drag strips. We can make that work, but we don’t run our bulls on pavement. We have to lay down dirt.”

About 24 bulls will be shipped up from a ranch in Kentucky, Dickens said. They will be released on to the track several times during the day, in groups of eight, 20 seconds apart.

Anyone contemplating taking a run should know that just because these bulls may not be snorting fire and brimstone, it doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of really ruining someone’s day.

“We’re mixing rodeo bulls with steers, and rodeo bulls are nowhere [near] tame,” Dickens said.

Now the question that may be preying on many minds: Just how dangerous is this, really?

“Well, you could die,” Dickens said bluntly. “But their have only been 15 deaths [in Spain] in the past 103 years.”

Dickens said as a contrast, there have been 44,000 motorcycle deaths in the U.S. in the past 10 years.

Dickens said he always wanted to go to Pamplona and take part in the romantic tradition, but something always came up.

“It just became impossible,” he said. “It was my sense that there was huge demand here for it to happen.”

But be warned: On the Great Bull Run website, participants will see a disclaimer that reads that they must, “accept the risk that you might be trampled, gored, rammed or tossed in the air by a bull.”

As a result, participants must pay an insurance fee and medical staff will be at the site on the day of the event.

Information is available at www.thegreatbullrun.com.

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