3 hours ago
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
So here we are, 20 deaf and hearing: LIS/ASL/Italian/English mix, hanging out in the campo as close to rail as possible at the highest point possible. People keep strolling in and the compo starts to fill up. A cannon announces the beginning and end to everything! Trials, parade, false starts and race. Even as the parade is going people are still filing in. I can't even describe what 2 million people in a square looks like with more people pouring in. When the oxen went around and the championship flag was hung over the officiating stand the doors were closed and there was no way in or out of the campo. We had been discussing through out the day our bus situation and the race start time. This is when we realized if we miss the last bus there is nothing we could do about it! We stood for two hours while the horses and riders jostled for position in lining up. There were 3 false starts. This is how it looks on tv. Cause I couldn't see anything from where I stood. There is the "ref" box (he gets escorted out of town as soon as the horses start off for sure. It is too dangerous for him to stay to see the winner in case one contrada is upset with how he handled the start of the race.) There is a rope from him to the inside of the track. Each contrada has a mascot (Turtle, eagle, worm, etc.) And is given a number (1st slot, 2nd slot,etc.) The ref waits for complete silence for the first line up. He calls out an animal and that contrada goes wild and then quiets down. This is crazy too. 2 million go from noisy and fidgety to silent is seconds. Way faster than any assembly at school or game at the Rose Quarter. He continues to call animals and they continue to line up in their respective "slot" there are no stalls just a rope. There is a lot of pushing shoving side stepping and smack talk going on. Each rider is dressed in his contradas colors with the animal on their back. Their horse has a set of reigns and head piece to match. (A horse can win the race without his rider as long as this head piece and reigns are still attached to the horse.) The riders carry a switch that cannot be used before the rope is dropped but after that any horse and or rider is fair game! Porcupine keeps shoving turtle out of his number one slot as far as I can tell. Shell might have had something to do with that too. If it takes too long to line up the ref tells them to all back out and do a lap on the leg right in front of us (I get to see more smack talk up close!) This goes on for an hour and a half until 9 are lined up in front of the rope. A second rope is raised most of the way across the track behind their butts and finally the last horse and rider (in red and green) races past them to start the race! When the short rope is at the middle of the red and green horse the front rope is dropped and they are all off. (I wish I could have seen all this but I got to observe it later on the tv in the pizzaria.) Three laps is all it takes. There were no mishaps at the corner with the mattresses (the only part of the track I could see) and the winner was a good horse length or more ahead most of the way! Turtles won! As soon as he crossed the line people poured over the fence and ran in front of the racing horses to get them to stop. It was insane! The turtle flags went up and the rest of the 17 contrada flags followed behind during the victory lap. (The last place rider gets 550 Euro first place got 150,000!)Then all the cafe's on the outside of the track bring out tables and chairs and feed everyone really fast! Not something I've experienced here, nothing is fast about food here!) The parading and music and partying carries on all night long. Everyone who is not apart of the winning contrada puts away their scarves. And all you see is turtles everywhere. Jacquie and I were exhausted having gotten up so early so after some pizza and shots, PV took us home and put us to bed before returning to the throngs of merry makers. I guess there was a water pump running that kept Jacquie up all night and she tried to wake me but I was dead to the world. It was a long hard night on her. We woke up extremely early to catch the first bus home at 630am. What a day!