New Orleans rolls out its own running of the bulls

Published 12:03 am Sunday, July 11, 2010

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In the French Quarter, an Elvis impersonator whizzing by on a scooter is just an ordinary day.

When a legion of Elvises traverses the Quarter, chased by women on skates brandishing horns on their heads and foam bats in their hands, and it’s not yet 8 a.m., well that’s unusual even by French Quarter standards.

Bars installed in the middle of Burgundy Street dispensed beer and sangria Saturday, which took the place of coffee as pick-me-ups. The crowd, dressed in the traditional bull-baiting attire of white with red sashes, grew taut with anticipation.

There would be no 1,300-pound angry animals plowing through the streets, no bloody gorings. But the roller girls were ready and chased down and spanked men playing the role of the bulls.

How many blows could the derriere of the man-bulls tolerate?

‘‘San Fermin in Nueva Orleans’’ has grown exponentially since Mickey Hanning got the idea of staging a tongue-in-cheek running of the bulls in his hometown on the same week that the real animals are trampling thrill-seekers in Pamplona, Spain.

The inaugural event in 2007 drew about 200 runners and 14 ‘‘RollerBulls.’’ Last year, there were 4,000 runners and over 80 RollerBulls. The Big Easy Rollergirls, a local roller derby group, were joined by other all-female skating teams, including several from out of state.

In keeping with Pamplona, where 24-hour partying frames the main event, the New Orleans version began with a Spanish tapas dinner.