SPECIAL REPORT: BULL RUN
This October, the Bull Run once again descended on the Northern Cape town of Vanwyksvlei… and as per tradition, it was a weekend packed with action – and lots of dust.
The Bull Run is an event without equal in South Africa. This September, at the end of the short, thirdterm school holidays, nearly 150 teams from across the country put thousands of kilometres behind them to come and play with their vehicles in the dust of Vanwyksvlei. The rules are simple: your car must be a year-model older than 1980, and it may not cost you more than R25 000.
Then you gather a bunch of teammates – we advise choosing at least one person who understands the inner workings of a car engine – invite a group of cheerleaders to support you, and then (proverbially) shoot the lights out, as you experience this colourful annual festival over the course of three days. As is to be expected, there was lots of dust. But this year there was also more excitement, and participants took the fun and adventure to the next level.
The town of Vanwyksvlei has become synonymous with the Bull Run, thanks to the ongoing success of this event. And this town has a special place in the heart of every Bull Runner, because you don’t encounter hospitality like this often. We wanted to find out a bit more about the town and its inhabitants, so we sat down for a chat with Jan la Grange, a farmer in the area, and a friend of the Bull Run.
“Here at Vanwyksvlei, on the edge of the Karoo and Boesmanland, we largely farm sheep,” he explains. “Not many people know about our little town, because Vanwyksvlei isn’t on any main roads or >
routes. Obviously, the exception to this is the Bull Run participants and their supporters!
“The biggest source of employment around here is primarily the agricultural sector, which makes use of farm labourers. Besides this, a large section of the local community is dependent on some form of government grant. In terms of agricultural production, things are still quite tough here, as the region is in the process of recovering from the worst drought in over a century.
“In the Vanwyksvlei area there are about 20 active farmers (and their spouses), who live on their land and derive their primary income from farming. So things have been difficult, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of despair and self-pity.
“But the annual Bull Run gives us a degree of escapism. There are about 10 farmers who roll up their sleeves each year and get stuck in to making the Bull Run a success by helping at the campsite and cooking meals, without expecting any compensation for it. They work together >
for months to improve the Bull Run experience.
“Why? Because it benefits the people of Vanwyksvlei. This event provides gainful employment for about 40 members of the community.” In previous years, participants of the Bull Run were expected to bring gifts and essential items with them for the community. But this year, we did things a little differently. The original founders of the Bull Run, Hermie Koen and Rieger van Rooyen, have decided to create a non-profit organisation that will provide sustainable job opportunities for the people of Vanwyksvlei. “The Bull Run doesn’t just bring a bunch of people into town; it also provides unbelievable opportunities in the form of donations, feeding, job opportunities, and above all, marketing,” says Jan. “And for that, we are thankful.”