The gun is fired and they are off. A pack of brave runners dressed in white shirts hurtle through the French Quarter of New Orleans with big beefy girls on roller skates tearing after them. The bruising females chase and whack their prey with whiffle ball bats and are dressed with massive horns for added menace. There is no doubt that they are a fearsome sight as they bear down on a limping runner and beat and pummel the hapless athlete. Even more outrageous are the spectators who look on, chomping their beignets (large French doughnuts) and jeering when some slow poke is caught and gored with a bat.
Here in this Deep South city famous both for Mardi Gras and Creole, the roller girls provide a modern twist on the Pamplona Bull Run (see ). A wine merchant called Mickey Hanning started the event in 2007. He loved the adrenaline rush involved in the Spanish version and decided that New Orleans should host a bull run of its own. However, bulls are in short supply in Louisiana (or maybe insurance men are in good supply), so Mickey had a few words with a team of roller racers called the Big Easy Roller Girls, hoping that some tough American broads could stand in as the bulls. Their captain, a woman who goes by the name of Archbishop Pummel, sent Mickey a reply, “I’ve got a bunch of bad ass chicks on wheels who probably wouldn’t mind beating up a bunch of guys.” And so the Running of the Bulls went stateside.
It takes place in July with over 30 roller girls forming teams with names like Confederacy of Punches and Crescent Wenches. The chase gets underway at the Three Legged Dog, one of the French Quarters pretty Creole houses and over 600 runners are pursued down Bourbon Street toward the Mississippi River. For comic effect (as if things were not hilarious enough) the Roller girls are themselves harried by the Rolling Elvis, a group of Elvis impersonators on sputtering scooters. The anarchic run comes to a climax amid much pounding and pummeling at the Gazebo on the river bank. The finishing line then turns into a block party with dirty rice, jambalaya, and pecan pie washed down with beer and bourbon.
The Roller Girls Running of the Bulls is open to everybody. You just need to turn up in white clothes and a red scarf and be prepared to be terrified and humiliated.
When to Go: July.
$$$ Le Pavillon Hotel, 833 Poydras St. ( 504/581-3111; www.lepavillon.com). $$ Quality Inn & Suites, 210 O’Keefe Ave. ( 504/525-6800; www.qualityinn.com).