Running With the Bulls

Barney Talks to Santa Barbaran Chris Nelson About Visiting Pamplona

Santa Barbaran Chris Nelson in the bullring at Pamplona after dangerous running with the bulls.
On the Beat

He Ran With the Bulls: Chris Nelson (he and his dad owned Santa Barbara Cash Register for 30 years) had read his Hemingway and decided to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. Just back from the Festival of San Fermin, Chris told me how he was knocked down, but two other runners were killed and ten more sent to the hospital for surgery.

What’s it like? This is what Chris, 45, explained to two 20-year-old Orange County students he met: “There are two basic rules: Stay down and when we turn the corner, run to the inside because it’s wet and slippery and the bulls will slide to the outside.”

“You must get to the street by 7 a.m. to get into position, otherwise you might not run. We made it by 7, went over the rules, and waited for the rocket. The rocket goes off and people start to run, I told them wait and let the crowd thin out.

“When we see the bulls then we run as hard and as fast as we can. When the bulls reach us, try to find a place to get out of the way. Any place. You can’t outrun them, so you try to dodge them. Brad got hit [by a bull] and fell forward into me. He hit the ground and stayed down as the bull took three steps right over him. I bounced off a door opening and kept running as they went by and followed them into the ring.”

“The streets are only 10-15 feet wide. When you get into the ring you can’t get out until it’s over. So you stay in the ring pretending to be amateur matadors until they clear the ring. We would also kneel down in front of the chute, where the new bulls charge into the ring, and they jump over your head.”

“Brad stayed down and is alive to tell his story. He says the girls love it; which, by the way, this was the day two guys were killed. Before this year, the last person killed was a U.S. college student who tried to get up and was gored in the chest and died.”

Chris said he didn’t wait to see the bullfight. “I came to run, not see the fights. I think the bulls did their job and should then be set free.”

Now that was a Fiesta!

Doreen Running: Doreen Farr, former co-publisher of the Goleta Valley Voice newspaper and former 2nd District representative on the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, says she’s opposing 3rd District incumbent supervisor Brooks Firestone.

Farr, a former Goleta resident and 25-year area resident, now lives in the Santa Ynez Valley following her divorce from Jim Farr, with whom she shared ownership of the Voice.

Farr said she’s filed papers to allow her to raise funds, is gathering endorsements, and plans to start walking the district door-to-door; and it’s a huge area, stretching from the SY Valley over the mountains to Goleta.

“It’s a critical election,” she told me, citing such as issues as planning and the Gaviota Coast. Farr, who served on the Planning Commission after being appointed by then-Supervisor Susan Rose, has been president of the Santa Ynez Valley Alliance, which she described as “dedicated to protecting the rural character” of the Valley. She said she left the commission to do consultant work for the city of Goleta.

Dr. David Bearman says he also plans to challenge Firestone in the June, 2008 election. If no one receives over 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will face off in the November general election.

Firestone faces a tough fight because of the number of residents unhappy with his positions on development and other issues.

Write On!: For a while, it looked like the Santa Barbara Writers Conference was going to be faced with a blank page at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort next year. “Another, much larger group had booked our week” next June, lamented conference head honcho, Marcia Meier. But, she reports the group pulled out, so the scribblers will be able to gather again next June 21-26. Meanwhile, its March Poetry Conference will feature Pulitzer winner Philip Levine, brother of Santa Barbaran Eli Levine.

Happy Venting: Sue and I are continuing our flirtation with Ventura. Heavens no, not to move there; just to have a mini-vacation without spending hours on the freeway or (horrors!) braving the tortures of airline travel. We’ve all passed that 10-story hotel on the oceanfront that was once a Holiday Inn that grew shabbier by the years. Well, now it’s been refitted and beautified. They’ve just opened an ocean view deck and were featured in the hit movie Little Miss Sunshine. It also sports its very own top chef, Nic Manocchio. We met old friends – and Ventura residents – Ivor and Sally Davis and had a fine meal at the hotel’s C-Street Restaurant, including superb dry-aged New York steak with wild mushrooms and caramelized onions, washed down with gourmet nut brown ale from Anacapa Brewing Company. Hey, we’re in Ventura and the beer hit the spot. One thing I noticed about the Ventura residents, old friends and new, they love the town.

Abruzzo Dishes: Singer Perry Como and musical conductor Henry Mancini were born there. Danta Sigismondi’s family lives there. I’m talking about Abruzzo, Italy, of course. Danta is manager of Via Maestra 42, one of my favorite Italian eateries. This week Via Maestra, located at 3343 State St., will be serving authentic dishes from the region, thanks to owner Renato Moiso. Dinner guests will receive a book about Abruzzo, compliments of the Italian Government Tourist Board.

Barney Brantingham can be reached at or 805-965-5205. He writes online columns on Tuesdays and Fridays and a print column on Thursdays.


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