The main event for this weekend's San Fermin en Nueva Orleans is Saturday, of course — thousands of runners are expected to participate in the fifth annual El Encierro, or Running of the Bulls. The "bulls" are 400 roller derby girls (including the Big Easy Roller Girls) from 27 teams across the U.S. and Canada.
But the festival officially begins tonight. The NOLA Bulls crew hosts a five-course Marques de Caceres wine dinner at Rambla. (Here's the menu and ticket information.) Tomorrow night is El Txupinazo, with a full Spanish buffet from Vega Tapas Cafe, open bar, flamenco dancing and music by Ven Pa Ca. (More info here.) Following the event is a 12-hour pre-party at 12 Bar on Fulton that'll keep going until 8 a.m. Saturday, when El Encierro begins.
Before the run (which you should read the Do's and Don'ts for) is the procession for St. Fermin. El costaleros carry the statue of St. Fermin in a morning procession, followed by a drum procession with el tambores and trumpatistos, performing a Spanish fanfare on trumpet. Following the run, roller girls compete in two contests: Best Dressed Bull and Horniest — to determine who wore the best pair of horns.
On Sunday, after Saturday's all-day events (including the post-run Fiesta de Pantalones), the NOLA Bulls and NOLA Fugees present El Pobre de Mi, with an Ernest Hemingway lookalike competition, skits and costume contest.
This year, ticket and merchandise sales and donations (including those for a by-donation mechanical bull ride) support Animal Rescue New Orleans and the Louisiana Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Also joining the festivities this year are 30 members of Atlanta cocktail enthusiasts The Martini Tour, who will take part in the procession and carry the ashes of Donald Robert Hanemann, one of the Atlanta groups' members who died recently. One of Hanemann's wishes was to run with the bulls in New Orleans.