Photos: San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain

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  1. People raise scarves and candles as they sing the 'Pobre de Mi' song, marking the end of the San Fermin festival on July 14 in Pamplona, Spain. Pamplona's famous Fiesta de San Fermin involves fighting bulls running through the historic heart of Pamplona. (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Giants dance during a farewell ceremony on the last day of San Fermin festival's 'Parade of the Giants and the Big Heads' in Pamplona, on July 14. Enormous puppets accompanied by brass bands parade daily through the city during the nine-day-long festival made popular by U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A steer runs over fallen runners on Estafeta street during the last running of the bulls at the San Fermin festival on July 14. There were no serious injuries during the run that lasted two minutes and 20 seconds, according to local news sources. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Churreria Munueta starts making 'churros' in the early hours before the San Fermin running of the bulls on July 14. (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A boy in a stroller looks at toy bulls before the start of the San Fermin festival's bull run for children on July 13. Six toy bulls driven by runners take part in the children's bull run, which imitates the morning running of the bulls for adults, but for a much shorter distance and with no real animals. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A young bull jumps over several runners or 'mozos' at the bullring shortly after finishing the seventh bullrun of the San Fermines festival on July 13. (Villar Lopez / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A couple embrace in the doorway of a house on Estafeta street before the running of the bulls at the San Fermin fiestas on July 13. Seven people have been injured but none gored in a swift and particularly dangerous second-to-last chapter of this year's running of the bulls in Pamplona. The diciest part of the daredevil sprint came in the home stretch on July 13, as the largest bull ran alone ahead of the pack of five others and six steers and barreled through the crowd like a locomotive. (Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Participants run with Victoriano del Rio fighting bulls during the sixth San Fermin Festival bull run, on July 12. (Javier Soriano / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Revelers are showered with sparks from the 'Fire Bull,' a man carrying a metal structure loaded with fireworks on the fifth day of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona on July 11. (Eloy Alonso / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Spanish bullfighter Juan Jose Padilla faces his second bull during the sixth bullfight of the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain, July 10. (Jesus Diges / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A Miura fighting bull attempts to leap over the barrier during the fourth bullfight of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 10. (Eloy Alonso / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. A reveler sleeps before the running of the bulls at the San Fermin fiestas, in Pamplona, July 10. (Ivan Aguinaga / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Revelers run as Miura's ranch fighting bulls follow, on Estafeta street during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, July 10. (Ivan Aguinaga / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Men prepare to take part in San Fermin festival's "Comparsa de gigantes y cabezudos" (Parade of the giants and the big heads) in Pamplona, July 9. Enormous puppets accompanied by brass bands parade daily through the city during the nine-day-long festival. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Revellers run from the "Fire Bull", a man carrying a metal structure loaded with fireworks on the fourth day of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, July 9. (Vincent West / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Spanish bullfighter David Mora, center, waits to make "the paseillo" or ritual entrance to the arena before a bullfight in Pamplona, July 8. (Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Spanish bullfighter Jesus Martinez "Morenito de Aranda" performs a pass during the second bullfight of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, July 8. (Vincent West / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Spanish bullfighter David Mora is gored by the second bull during the fourth bullfight of the Fiesta de San Fermin in Pamplona, July 8. (Jesus Diges / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A "recortador" performs with a fighting bull during an exhibition of acrobatic skills at the bullring on the fourth day of the annual San Fermin festival in Pamplona, July 9. (Stringer/spain / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. A runner is trampled by a wild cow at the bullring following the second running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, on Friday, July 8. Perhaps best glorified by Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises," the festival is known around the world for the daily running of the bulls. (Eloy Alonso / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. A runner hangs from a wooden door as a Cebada Gago fighting bull passes during the second running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival on July 8. Six people were treated in hospital and a 24-year-old Australian man was gored in the leg in a run that lasted three minutes and ten seconds, according to local news sources. (Joseba Etxaburu / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. A fighting bull takes the curve during the San Fermin festival on July 8. People come from all over the world to test their bravery in the daily bull runs and enjoy the festival's nonstop street parties which last until July 14. (Denis Doyle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Revelers run next to Cebada Gago ranch fighting bulls on July 8. (Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A photographer waits with his camera inside a shop decorated with a painting of Saint Fermin on the Estafeta Corner before the second running of the bulls on July 8. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A calf jumps into the arena after the running of the bulls on July 7. Revelers gather in the bullring following the running of the bulls and bull calves with their horns covered are released from enclosures into the bullring. Thrill-seekers crouch down at the gate of the enclosure and the released calf leaps over them. (Ivan Aguinaga / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. An image of Saint Fermin is carried through the streets of Pamplona on July 7. (Ivan Aguinaga / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Mexican matador Arturo Saldivar is trampled by a Torrestrella bull during a bullfight held as part of the San Fermin festival on July 7. (Ander Gillenea / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Revelers are surprised by an angry leading ox, used to drive the fighting bulls during the running of the bulls on July 7. (Daniel Ochoa De Olza / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. A man falls next to a steer during the first bull run on July 7. (Eloy Alonso / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Several 'mozos' or runners are chased by bulls from Torrestrella ranch during the first bull run on July 7. Four people were lightly injured. (Jesus Diges / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. A runner is turned round by a young bull at the bullring after finishing the run on July 7. (Jesus Caso / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Revelers take cover before a fighting cow leaps over them at Pamplona's bullring after the first bull run on July 7. (Joseba Etxaburu / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. A man is tossed during the 'Chupinazo' to mark the start, at noon sharp, of the San Fermin Festival on July 6 in front of the Town Hall of Pamplona. Tens of thousands of people packed Pamplona's streets for a drunken kick-off to Spain's best-known fiesta: the nine-day San Fermin bull-running festival. (Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Reveler kisses the traditional red neckerchief as ten of thousands people kicked off the San Fermin Fiesta in Pamplona on July 6. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Water is thrown from a balcony onto revelers during the 'Chupinazo', the official opening of the San Fermin fiesta in Pamplona, July 6. The festival, held since 1591, attracts tens of thousands of foreign visitors each year for nine days of revelry, morning bull-runs and afternoon bullfights. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. Thousands filled the main square in Pamplona July 6 for the festival's official start. (Vincent West / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Revelers pack the 'Plaza Ayuntamiento,' Pamplona's city hall square, for the start of the San Fermin Festival. (Jesus Diges / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. A festival goer jumps from a fountain to be caught by the crowd during the opening of San Fermin festival on July 6. (Denis Doyle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Revelers drink wine while celebrating the 'Chupinazo' in Pamplona, July 6. (Alvaro Barrientos / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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Running of the Bulls festival
Ivan Aguinaga  /  AP
Tens of thousands of people packed Pamplona's main square in Pamplona, Spain Wednesday July 6, 2011 to celebrate the start of Spain's most famous bull-running festival with the annual launch of the "chupinazo" rocket.
msnbc.com news services
updated 7/6/2011 2:05:49 PM ET 2011-07-06T18:05:49

Tens of thousands of people packed Pamplona's main square Wednesday for the launch of the "chupinazo" rocket — the start of Spain's most famous bull-running festival.

Mayor Enrique Maya heralded the first of nine days of uninterrupted festivities in the northern town as he lit the fuse from a balcony overlooking a frenzied crowd.

Story: Ole! It's time for the running of the bulls

"Men and women of Pamplona, Long Live San Fermin!" Maya screamed, as revelers sprayed a fountain of wine, sangria, water and cava into the air. Many used toy water pistols, or leather wineskins to squirt alcohol into the mouths of those who asked. Onlookers on balconies followed suit.

"It's way more than we expected, especially just the energy. And this is only, what, the opening?" said 37-year-old Brooklyn native Malika Oyo, who was partaking with her brother Yaka.

"We need sangria, we need sangria right now," she said.

The day before the bulls steam through Pamplona's streets, its the turn of locals and foreigners — nearly all dressed in white; red handkerchiefs tied around necks once the chupinazo has been fired.

"Everything happened so quickly... I screamed with all of my might, but the truth is from here (in the crowds) you can't hear a thing," Maya said.

Image: A man is held up by revelers
Daniel Ochoa De Olza  /  AP
A man is held up by revelers, during the 'chupinazo', the official opening of the 2011 San Fermin fiestas on Wednesday.

As the sea of people sang along to "Ole, Ole, Ole," giant beach balls were punched to and fro."Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes suddenly became another crowd favorite, many humming along, interspersed by the occasional fevered chant of "San Fermin" or "alcohol."

The Red Cross said it attended to 15 people with five taken to hospital for treatment to injuries.

"The ambiance is incredible, there's so much excitement in the air, there's a rush here you don't feel anywhere else," said 28-year-old Pamplona local Edurne Berastegi.

Immortalized in Ernest Hemingway's 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises," the San Fermin festival is known around the world for the daily running of the bulls and all-night partying.

The first of eight dashes comes Thursday when thousands look to outrun six fearsome bulls along a narrow 875 yards (800 meters) course through the city's cobblestone streets, with both beast and human often falling over — stomping on each other as they go.

Alonso Ceardi nearly died when a half-tonne bull gored him in the chest during Spain's San Fermin festival last year, but he's still addicted to the thrill of running with bulls and is back again this week.

The Chilean-born waiter, 24, who has attended San Fermin since 2008 is looking forward to his 10th outing on Thursday.

"When you're out there, in front of the bulls, it's an enormous high, that's the way it is. It makes you want to run, to feel on top of the world," Ceardi said.

"I'm planning on staying up ... partying until about 4 and then running tomorrow. I'm thinking about running this stretch here out of the square into 'dead man's' corner," said 28-year-old Australian tourist Dylan McLaren.

McLaren's white shirt had turned completely purple after being soaked in wine and other liquids. As was his girlfriend — who didn't seem to be particularly enamored by the occasion: "She's not very happy about that, not happy at all," he added.

The 8 a.m. runs take place daily until July 14 with each charge broadcast on state television. And then, on the afternoon of each day, the same bulls face matadors in the ring.

"We do it because it's craziness, it's total insanity. You purposely put yourself at risk — it's a huge adrenaline rush," said 55-year-old Florida native Hal Ringeisen who was in Pamplona with his wife Linda and neighbor John Parris, 52. Parris claims to have run the event over 70 times since 1989.

"On a drunken night he talked my husband into doing it and it's been downhill ever since," Linda revealed.

Since record-keeping began in 1924, 15 people have been killed in the running of the bulls — the last victim 27-year-old Spanish runner Daniel Jimeno Romero in 2009.

Yaka Oyo said he was planning on running the second and third day while his sister Malika remained unsure.

"I keep asking if women run and people keep saying 'no' so I want to run," she said.

"It's not the bull that worries me," she added "I'm more worried about the men knocking me down, and then the bull."

Pamplona and Hemingway have been intimately linked since a visit to the town in 1923 inspired "The Sun Also Rises," his booze-sodden tale of a group of bickering Americans and Britons which sealed the reputation of both town and author.

The U.S. Nobel Literature Laureate died 50 years ago, but thousands still follow the "Hemingway trail" of bars, cafes and restaurants where he enjoyed the Navarra region's distinctive cuisine.

Tourists descend on Pamplona in such numbers that hotels lining the route and the bull ring itself are booked up for years in advance. Many sleep rough or not at all, preferring instead to join in non-stop street parties so raucous that many local residents wear ear-plugs to bed at night.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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