Thousands run with the bulls in The Great Bull Run at Maple Grove Speedway

News photos by Emily Thiel The Great Bull Run at Maple Grove Speedway Saturday, June 7.

“We’re adrenaline junkies,” Julian O’Neill, Villanova, said why he signed up to risk his life to run with the bulls. For those who love an adventure and can’t just hop a plane to Spain, have had a wild dream come true when the famous Running of the Bulls came to Berks County this past weekend. The Great Bull Run made a stop at Maple Grove Speedway, Mohnton Saturday, June 7 where people traveled from all over the East coast for the once in a lifetime event.

The Great Bull Run is on tour around the United States from April to November, also hitting up Dallas and Houston, the Twin Cities, Chicago, Northern and Southern California, and Atlanta.

“It’s a unique, exciting event that no one else is doing,” Rob Dickens, festival producer said. He gets turnout numbers of 5,000 to 6,000 people who register for the event in each city. Participants had to sign a waiver stating they understand the risks before participating in the run.

“It’s an item off the bucket list,” Ashpy Jenkins, Pasadena, MD, said. “We don’t have this where we live.”

Participants ran a quarter of a mile course, locked in the fences with 18 bulls, broken up in three waves of release. The bulls stampeded down the center while people donning white shirts and pants with red scarves dodged out of the way of the 1,500-pound beasts. Wearing all white with red accents was suggested by the organizers, to keep the event in full Spanish tradition. “I’ve never heard of anything like this,” Zach Waxman, Philadelphia, said. “We figured ‘why not?’”

Dickens was inspired to start hosting the runs after being unable to run in the original event in Spain. He told Berks-Mont Newspapers he plans to grow the event, coming back every year. “We want to make it a two-day festival,” he said.

“It was good times with good friends,” Nathan Burdick, Barto, said. “It was exactly what I expected -- an American-ized version of Spain’s [event].”

“It sounded fun,” Aj Lefler, Allentown, said while waiting in line for his 1 p.m. run about why he signed up. When Lefler heard the event was coming to Berks County, he recruited his friends to join him. “I always wanted to do Running with the Bulls in Spain.”

Dressed like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lefler and friends Brandon Whitesell, Emmaus, Zack Wittman, Macungie and Cody Herbein, Emmaus, enjoyed their free beer and t-shirt that accompanied the ticket. “It was a less expensive way to run with the bulls,” Herbein said. “It didn’t hit me until I saw the black bull staring me in the eyes,” Obel Hernandez, Philadelphia said. “I enjoyed it, I’d run again.”

“It was quick,” Amanda Nicholson, Jackson, N.J., said. “But it gave you that adrenaline rush you wanted to get out of it.”

If one run was unsatisfying, re-run tickets were available for runners for the cost of $20. “Curiosity” was what brought out Naoum Tsiartsionis, Cape May, N.J. said. Tsiartsionis wanted to check out the business model, “I think it’s brilliant.”

“We had to do it,” Lisa Paradise, Bear, Dela., said. All 36 bulls were released for the last run, before kicking off the start of the Tomato Royale tomato fight.

Check out videos of The Great Bull Run at tout.com/southernberksnews

About the Author

Emily Thiel

Emily Thiel is the editor of The Southern Berks News and is the Community Engagement Editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers. Emily joined Berks-Mont in March 2013. She graduated from Kutztown University in 2011 with a degree in English with a concentration in Cultural and Media Studies. Emily is a native of Allentown, Pa. Reach the author at ethiel@berksmontnews.com or follow Emily on Twitter: @sthrnberksnews.