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A bat-wielding "bull" swats a slow runner during San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, New Orleans' version of the encierro. 

Updated: San Fermin in Nueva Orleans is postponed to Aug. 23-25.

Andrew Ward has been the Running of the NOLA Bulls’ Pope Andrew I since the event’s inception in 2007. Every year he gives a convocation before the bulls — women roller derby league members armed with plastic bats and horned helmets — are released to “gore” thousands of participants running through New Orleans’ Warehouse District. In addition to hosting the Best Dressed Bull contest after the run, he has a few official duties, but he also is involved in solicited services and consultations.

“People come up and there’s a drunken maniac with a big feather hat and they’re like ‘Could you please give a blessing to my little child?’” Ward says. “I am like, ‘Sure, sure.’”

During the Running of the Bulls, or San Fermin in Nueva Orleans, he’s officiated weddings, baptisms (with sangria) and even a funeral — for a man whose ashes were spread following the run. Ward is ordained by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Universal Life Church and the Intergalactic Krewe of Chewbacchus. He has presided over 212 weddings, he says.

His ministering seems straightforward compared to his career. Ward organizes and hosts music festivals in Sub-Saharan Africa and central Asia to promote HIV awareness. He speaks Arabic, Urdu and other languages, and he’s introduced bands including The Lumineers and Michael Franti & Spearhead in concerts from Uganda and Rwanda to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan (a place “North Koreans won’t go because they think it’s too uptight,” he says).

On Saturday, Aug. 24, he’ll mount the gate above the entrance to the Sugar Mill and deliver an impromptu convocation to let the Running of the Nola Bulls, or “encierro,” begin. The only time he had a written speech was for the first event, when the event’s co-founder, Mickey Hanning, gave him a prayer written in Basque.

“I got a bad internet translation,” Ward says. “I am going to Pamplona with a prayer and a sock. Then I was like, ‘We’re going to march into the future together,’ and, ‘Now we should kneel.’ Everyone did it, and it sort of evolved.”

There are several events in the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans festival. Ward hosts the Txupinazo, a Friday night party on the eve of the run. It’s also a fundraiser for Beth’s Friends Forever (, named after Running of the Bulls co-founder Beth Hanning, which supports women battling breast cancer.

The encierro, inspired by the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Sugar Mill. Runners traditionally wear white outfits with red sashes, bandanas and accoutrements, and some runners wear costumes. There are a couple of hundred bulls from roller derby leagues across the U.S. who chase runners on the mile-long course. The route circles the Warehouse District and returns the runners to the Sugar Mill, where there’s music by Morning 40 Federation and DJs, as well as a mechanical bull, performing aerialists, bars and food trucks. Le Fiesta de Pantalones is an afterparty at the Rusty Nail beginning at 11:30 a.m. Saturday (registered runners get Disco Lemonades for $5).

El Pobre de Mi caps the festivities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Lula Restaurant Distillery. The event’s name is inspired by Ernest Hemingway, and a Hemingway lookalike contest concludes the event. There also are burlesque performances by members of Roxie Le Rouge’s Big Deal Burlesque.

Ward usually attends but doesn’t serve as host. It’s not that he’s short of words or inspiration, but he usually loses his voice by then, he says.

Aug. 23-25

San Fermin in Nueva Orleans

Various locations

Admission varies