MADRID – Thousands of revelers doused each other with wine Monday to celebrate the start of the famed San Fermin running of the bulls festival in this northern Spanish city.
The festival started with the traditional launching of a fireworks rocket -- known as the "Chupinazo"-- from the town hall balcony. The heaving crowd packed the square down below, jumping and screaming "Viva San Fermin!"
Most in the crowd waved red neckerchiefs, which along with white shirts and trousers form the traditional festival clothing.
The Chupinazo takes place a day before the first of eight 8 a.m. bull runs. Thousands of people at the festival test their speed and bravery by racing ahead of six fighting bulls along a 930-yard (850-meter) course from a holding pen to the city's bull ring. The bulls are then killed by professional matadors in bullfights each afternoon.
The nine-day, street-partying fiesta was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" and attracts thousands of foreign tourists.
Bull runs, or "encierros," as they are called in Spanish, are a traditional part of summer festivals across Spain. Dozens are injured each year in the runs, most of them in falls.
Two men have died being gored by bulls in Spanish festivals in recent weeks -- one Saturday in the eastern town of Grao de Castellon and another June 24 in the southwestern town of Coria.
Five Spaniards, two Australians and one American were gored in last year's festival in Pamplona. In all, 15 people have died from gorings in San Fermin since record-keeping began in 1924.