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Thousands mark start of running of the bulls festival in Spain

The blast of the traditional ‘Chupinazo’ rocket officially kicks off nine days of bull runs and partying in Pamplona.

Revellers packed the main square in Pamplona during the launch of the traditional ‘Chupinazo’ rocket (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)
Revellers packed the main square in Pamplona during the launch of the traditional ‘Chupinazo’ rocket (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)

The blast of a firework has opened nine days of uninterrupted partying in Pamplona’s famed running of the bulls festival.

A member of the northern Spanish city’s official brass band was chosen for this year’s launch of the rocket, known as the “Chupinazo”, to mark 100 years since the local ensemble’s foundation.

Jesus Garisoain addressed an ecstatic crowd from the city hall’s balcony, declaring “Long live San Fermin” – the saint honoured by the festival.

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The ceremony marks the start of nine days of uninterrupted partying (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)

The blast was met by an eruption of joy from revellers, who sprayed each other with wine, staining in pink the traditional attire of white clothes and a red scarf.

Early 20th-century American author Ernest Hemingway immortalised the fiesta in his The Sun Also Rises novel.

During the festival, Pamplona’s population swells from nearly 200,000 residents to around a million, with visitors attracted by the adrenaline rush of bull runs along an 850-metre street course to the city’s bullring and seamless nights of partying.

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The launch of the ‘Chupinazo’ rocket sparked delight among the thousands of revellers gathered (Alvaro Barrientos/AP)

Protests by pro-animal rights groups have also become a fixture in recent years.

On the eve of the festival, dozens of semi-naked activists staged a performance simulating speared bulls lying dead on Pamplona’s cobbled streets to draw attention to what they see as animal cruelty for the sake of human entertainment.

Bullfights are protected under the Spanish Constitution as part of the country’s cultural heritage.

The festival’s bull runs start on Sunday.

PA

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