Stoke History of Running of the Bulls and San Fermín
San Fermín Festival and our part in it as told by Stoke Travel Co.
Let me share with you two glorious tales. Life, love, death, and alcohol – all the usual culprits make an appearance. The first is the story of how the San Fermín Festival in Pamplona evolved into the stellar fiesta it is today. The second is of how the Stoke Travel Co. first came to make menaces of themselves at said fiestas.
The magnificent San Fermín certainly didn’t become so magnificent overnight. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. This festival has a pretty kick ass history, dating back to the Middle Ages! So if we start at the beginning: there was once a religious ceremony in Pamplona honouring a Saint by the name of Fermín. Fermín, the first ever bishop from Pamps, was tragically beheaded one September day while preaching in France, hence his fame. Eventually, the Pamplonans got sick of having the ceremony with shitty weather in September, so they moved it to July, coinciding with the annual summer fairs. Bull fights soon became a part of the fiesta in the 17th century, and from there, the infamous Running of the Bulls emerged.
How on earth did the Running of the Bulls become involved, you ask? Well, let me enlighten you. The people of Pamplona needed a way to get the bulls from the corrals where they are bred, to the bullrings. People would stand along the streets yelling and swatting at the bulls to herd them to the ring quickly. This turned into a bit of a game, with young men competing over who could hurry the bulls the most effectively. Eventually they started racing in front of the bulls, which led to the tradition celebrated today. With all these fun additions, the two-day festival was going to need to be lengthened!
Each year the festival got bigger, better, and crazier. In 1537, the authorities decided that people were having too much fun at a festival that was meant to be honouring a Saint. So they attempted to stop the religious ceremonies from turning into big fiestas. Nearly 150 years later, they realized there was no way to stop the people from partying and gave up. The Spanish continued letting loose despite every effort from the Parliament, keep that in mind next time your mum tells you to chill it with the partying. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the clergy were concerned at the ‘excessive drinking and dissolute behaviour’ of young men and women. Glad to see things haven’t changed since then! In the 19th century they had even more cool stuff like someone being fired from a cannon and appearances from exotic animals. Back in the day they didn’t have the double fence we’ve had implemented for safety, so it wasn’t rare for the bulls to escape and run around the city streets. The famed author Ernest Hemingway even wrote a book about the antics of San Fermín called The Sun Also Rises, which is pretty much responsible for the fame of the festival today. Now people all over the world come to the party in Pamps. The Spaniards sure knew how to turn a religious ceremony into one hell of a festival.
Now, where does Stoke come into this? Hundreds of years later, a van full of international miscreants packed their gear and left behind their French surf camp in search of the San Fermín festival. Right before crossing the Spanish border, a Finnish fellow named Pete announced that he had 100gms of hash in the van. Each of the ruffians held their breath as they watched the border police and their sniffer dogs wave them past without a search. With a sigh of relief, the Stokies continued on their journey and eventually arrived in Pamplona where the fun had just begun. They partied in the streets until the sun shyly popped its head over the horizon and then they eagerly (if not a little crookedly) walked over to the morning bull run. Unfortunately, the Spanish five-0 didn’t like the look of their foreign faces and beat the shit out of them. All in all, it was a bit of a failure.
In 2009, they agreed this wasn’t going to happen again. Stoke decided to make their trip a bit more official and set up their first camp with guests. This time, things were somewhat more successful and so it continued, each and every year since then. The following years saw zero Stoke fatalities, a handful of bull-related injuries and innumerable soul crushing hangovers, three marriage proposals, a couple of breakups, more nudity than they’d care to admit, a sick Stoke bar in the centre of town and the biggest parties every single night. From here the Stoke story will only get more epic, I’d bet my last penny on it.
And that, my friend, wraps up the fables I wanted to share with you. So when you’re at the legendary San Fermín festival, don’t forget to cheers to the good man Saint Fermín. He is, after all, the main reason we get to have freaking huge week-long fiestas on the street every year. Come and party with Stoke and they’ll show you just why they too, are going down in history.