EVENT: Rolling of the Bulls in Downtown Hampton

EVENT: Rolling of the Bulls in Downtown Hampton
Members of the Dominion Derby Girls get ready for the Rolling of the Bulls in downtown Hampton

Re-imagined Spanish tradition to provide fun in downtown Hampton 

By Michael Curry

Yes, you read that correctly..the Rolling of the Bulls.

This is Coastal Virginia’s wildly imaginative interpretation of the centuries old tradition of The Running of the Bulls. It takes place in downtown Hampton, Saturday, July 14 from 3pm until 7pm when the block party begins.

As Carlyle Bland, proprietor of Marker 20, Venture and Brown Chicken, Brown Cow in downtown Hampton so aptly describes this increasingly popular event (which in large part he was instrumental in bringing to life): “Who doesn’t want to be spanked by a roller derby girl?” So there you have the concept in a nutshell.

Get ready for some more hilarity in downtown Hampton and just imagine that you are in Pamplono. But, instead of the famed fierce and angry  bulls running up and down the streets, we have a posse of professional roller skaters, led by the indomitable Dominion  Roller Derby Girls all decked out in their horrifying helmets with horns and armed with brightly colored wiffle bats..oh, and knee pads. The wiffle bat looks just like a baseball bat but is made of really lightweight plastic with perforations in it. It was designed to be used in confined spaces – both indoors and out. Here of course it is used to great effect by the derby girls in the great outdoors of the streets of Hampton.

These Derby Girls  are those from which you have to run on this half mile course along the cobbled streets! And of course skates know no boundaries. 

Now in its seventh year, the Rolling of the Bulls is a wonderfully unique and authentic “take” on the Running of the Bulls which history tells us originated in the fourteenth century. Way back then, of course, the object of the entire laborious endeavor was to get the bulls to the market and/or the bullring in order to gain some income and survive. Legend has it that the farmers and breeders were so eager to hurry up the whole procedure that they incited excitement and fear into the animals to make them run faster. Naturally, as the years went by, everything simply evolved into the Festival of The Running of the Bulls, now known worldwide with huge celebrations in Spain, Portugal, Southern France,  Mexico and many other Spanish speaking nations. 

Runners, dressed all in white, race in front of the raging beasts to try and beat them to the ultimate goal. Some of the runners even carry a newspaper (not Veer Magazine we hope) rolled up in order to draw the attention of the raging bulls away from them when necessary.

In Spanish, it is all known as encierro which means to round up and enclose. As a significant part of the now global ongoing tradition, the runners actually sing (three times, no less) a plea to Saint Fermin who is patron of the City of Pamplono, for his protection and blessings.  

So.. BACK TO HAMPTON… ON SKATES

Here in Hampton Roads, the runners -all dressed in white as are their counterparts in Spain, are actually running away from the Dominion Derby Girls who are armed with their signature whiffle ball bats.  Creativity is highly encouraged during this half mile run and the major reason the participants wear white is simply that the girls on skates will know whom to hit!

The Dominion Derby Girls is an all female flat track roller derby league whose dual purpose is to promote the sport of roller derby while giving back to the community. Organized by skaters for the skaters, the Dominion Derby Girls is a not for profit organization and a proud member of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association. After rigorous training and practice, the girls are ready to show off their speed, fancy skate work and sheer athleticism! Watch out runners.

Similar Rolling of the Bulls events are now held in New Orleans, Charleston and Atlanta (among other locales).

The festivities begin with a party on the deck of Marker 20 restaurant where you can savor paella (of course), all you can eat and drink specials. Registration for the actual run (free) begins at 5.45.

As in Spain, the run begins with a blessing – this one of course has to be seen to be believed! It’s hilarious – and then the rollers are off as the runners have to make their way through the gauntlet of “bulls” and begin the course. 

One of the many highlights of this Hampton extravaganza is La Ballontina.  Modeled after the famed La Tomatina – basically a city wide tomato fight which originated in the Spanish town of Bunol- La Ballontina does not actually feature tomatoes but rather involves the release and popping of 2000 balloons filled with red food coloring. This way no tomatoes get hurt, as organizers like to point out.  The winner of this madness and mayhem is the person with the most amount of white clothes (i.e. not stained) after the balloons have been thrown and burst wide open!

Live music begins with the Tiki Bar Band at 7pm and continues with the 40th anniversary tour of the Skip Castro Band which takes the stage at 9pm.

While there is no charge to actually participate in the Rolling of the Bulls, runners must sign up/register and those under 18 must have an adult present with them. Registration takes place in front of Marker 20. There is a fee ( a mere $15) for the paella party which begins at 3pm – it’s a fund raiser for the Derby Girls.

So get your white outfit ready and prepare to be chased, spanked and besmeared with red food coloring.