SAN FERMIN IN NUEVA ORLEANS & BASTILLE DAY - NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA
The “pope” stands high above the crowd on his scaffolding while explaining this is not just an imitation of El Encierro from Pamplona, Spain, but a “protest against normalcy.” At 8am sharp, the bulls are unleashed upon the city of New Orleans. The bulls are powerful women from area roller derby teams. Their attire ranges from papier-mâché bull heads to giant bull nose rings in septum piercings and fishnets to horns that extend five feet in either direction.
A horn blows and they are out. Their giant plastic bats pulsate, thwapping the streets of the Central Business District. Then thousands of runners—most of whom have had at least one sangria despite the early hour—rush by, trying to pass the bulls without getting their bottoms spanked.
As the blocks roll by, the excitement builds. People are sprinting, bulls are stopping to set up makeshift road blocks. A referee tells the women to keep rolling. Some runners pass triumphantly, only feeling the swoosh of air as the bat narrowly misses, and others yelp as the bat makes contact. One young girl cries in horror out after getting swatted repeatedly, “I’m already out! I’m done!” A man in a long flowing cape nearly tumbles, taken aback from the harder-than-anticipated hit. Another man gets tapped and instinctively puts back his hand, grabs and runs away with the bat. A group of bulls notice this and maneuver flawlessly to trap him, grab the bat and return it to its rightful owner without missing a beat.
The flurry of activity ends as quickly as it came. The rest of the day sees people spread throughout the city in traditional red and white garb.
Fittingly, as the city of New Orleans went back and forth from the French and Spanish at its beginning, ooh la las replace ole’s on the Spanish Plaza in the afternoon to celebrate Bastille Day. There are mimes and Napoleons, and a dog costume contest with awards for “most French looking” and “most Jules Verne themed.” One of the French judges, famous for having her New Orleans apartment filled with tributes to champagne, brings her own dog decked out in red, blue, and white.
On Sunday, one of the favorite events is the waiter’s race. Men and women who bartend and wait in the city must carry a tray topped with a famous Sazerac cocktail, two croissants and more, while walking—never running—as fast as they can down four blocks in the French Quarter. A band leads the way while little French cars are parked along the route.
The festivities come to a close Monday as the Joan of Arc statue gets her wreath. And as this is New Orleans, despite the heat and humidity, one only has to wait a moment for the next festival to begin.
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Tammy Mercure is a State Guide to Tennessee and co-editor of THE AMERICAN GUIDE. A photographer living in Bristol, Tennessee, she enjoys photographing just about any event that includes loud noises and fast moving things. She was recently named one of the “100 under 100: The New Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine. Follow her on Tumblr or on her website, TammyMercure.com.
Ooh la la.
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