Pamplona's San Fermín festival opens with celebration on eve of running of the bulls

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Thousands of people erupted in party mood Wednesday, dousing each other with wine and singing and dancing in the streets of this northern Spanish city to celebrate the start of Pamplona's famed San Fermín running of the bulls festival.

The festival started with the traditional midday launching of a firework rocket — known as the "Chupinazo"— from Pamplona's town hall balcony.

Thousands of people waving the festival's traditional red neckerchief jammed the square down below and immediately began jumping and screaming "Viva San Fermín!" The firecracker also signaled the moment to don the neckscarf, part of the festival garb along with white trousers and shirt.

The nine-day, street-partying fiesta was immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises" and attracts thousands of foreign tourists.

The "Chupinazo" takes place a day before the first of eight 8 a.m. bull runs, in which daredevils test their speed and bravery by racing with six fighting bulls along a 930-yard street course to the city's bull ring. The bulls then face matadors and almost certain death in afternoon bullfights.

Bull runs, or "encierros," as they are called in Spanish, are a traditional part of summer festivals across Spain. Dozens of people are injured each year in the runs, most of them in falls.

Ten people, including four Americans, were gored in last year's festival.

In all, 15 people have died from gorings in the San Fermín festival since record-keeping began in 1924.

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