Saturday, March 23, 2019
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20190116 Bullfight IMG 8014Just about the same time that the movie “Field of Dreams” coined the phrase “Build it and they will come,” Fred Renk was putting that theory to the test. After 19 years of unofficial study one would tend to think Renk agrees with the sentiment.

Nineteen years ago, Renk opened the Santa Maria Bullring on Farm-to-Market Road 1017 in La Gloria, Texas. Today, there is nothing for miles on the desolate road, just a lot of ranch land, high and low fences and the bullring, the “only bullring used for bullfighting in the United States,” said the former matador.

More than 300 people also came to enjoy an afternoon of bloodless bullfighting under near-perfect weather conditions. There was food, beverages, music, dancing horses and, of course, bulls – 1,000-pound fighting bulls. People came from as far away as Vera Cruz, Mexico, to the south and the northern border of Minnesota.

20190116 Bullfight IMG 7966Bullfights are much different in the United States than in other countries because the bulls are not killed or injured. In other countries, 13 according to Renk, the bull is first weakened by a picador, who spears the bull to draw first blood. Bloodless bullfighting is much more dangerous for the matador, and several matadors have been tossed or injured at the Santa Maria Bullring, including Renk’s own son, David Renk.

Fans got a quick look at a dangerous moment that world-class matador Leal Montalvo faced, the bull turning and making an unexpected quick charge on the matador. The bull first made a charge at Montalvo's midsection, possibly sideswiping Montalvo, who quickly sidestepped most of the danger. The bull turned and again was upon his enemy in the ring. Montalvo pushed himself away from the bull, his hand fully on the animal's horn, and helpers in the ring distracted the bull and gave the matador time to recuperate.

The time, however, wasn't very long and Montalvo was back out in the ring, twirling, sidestepping and keeping the cape moving as the bull targeted and charged over and over, never once endangering Montalvo – well, not any more than being in the ring with a half-ton maniacal animal with a pair of horns.

20190116 Bullfight IMG 8052Montalvo performed along with famous matador Manolo Martinez and Michelito Lagravere, who won the Golden Bull Award last year at Santa Maria and was also awarded symbolic ears and tail on two occasions in 2018.

Renk himself was a matador who was injured being tossed by a bull. One story describes that 1969 battle between Renk and the bull named “La Conquistador,” as follows:

“(His son David) watched many times as Renk drew his magenta-colored cape, charming the dust into a swirl as death charged past him. This time, however, when Renk offered the cape, the bull took aim at his knee. He spun the cape in a circular motion, and the beast tossed Renk in the air. After he fell to the ground, Conquistador played with him: He speared him in the upper leg and pulled Renk atop his head like a floppy hat worn akimbo. Then, as if to gloat, Conquistador pranced, presenting his trophy to the gasping crowd before he rammed Renk’s body into the sidewall of the ring.”

His passion, nor David's never slowed. Saturday's bullfight was actually in honor of David Renk, who died in September of congestive heart failure.

Fred Renk, the master of ceremonies for the event, urged people to cheer on the matadors. “Let's hear it, Ole!” he would yell, rousing the audience's attention and excitement. He's been around this for decades and understands that many in the crowd were first-timers, among them a van full of Winter Texans from Illinois who weren't sure what to expect.

20190116 Bullfight IMG 7997“This is our first time,” said one of the group members, adding he had worked on a farm before and saw his brother chased by a bull, but that was the closest he had been to a bull fight. “We have no idea what to expect but we do know a lot of what goes on is traditional and it all has meaning.”

Matadors prayed as they prepared themselves physically, mentally and spiritually.

A small room under the stands held candles and other religious artifacts, for those to have moments in prayer.

The arena, built by Renk, has an air that demands respect. As the matadors stand facing their opponent, the pride and majesty of one of the world's oldest sports fills the air. There are openings along the ring and behind barriers where people can watch, while seated in the shade of the seats above them. These are the box seats.

The next bullfight will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 26. Call the bullring at 956-481-3300 to make reservations and for directions. Pay upon arrival. All tickets are the same price as last year $30 sun, $35 shade and ringside covered box seats are $40. Children under 12 free.

Gates open at 1 p.m. You’ll want to arrive early for food and entertainment prior to the bullfight. The bullfight begins at 4 p.m. sharp.

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