Large crowds with red handkerchiefs descended on Pamplona, Spain, Wednesday for the start of the annual San Fermin festival commonly known as the Running of the Bulls.

The annual fiestas attract approximately 1 million tourists each year as revelers douse themselves in wine and sing and dance in the city’s narrow cobblestone streets. Also known as the Encierro, the festival runs from July 6 to July 14 this year.

The festivities kicked with the launch of a firework rocket called the “Chupinazo.” Starting Thursday, the first of eight bull runs, also known as “encierros,” will begin at 8:00 a.m. local time. People brave Pamplona’s narrow streets racing with six bulls for 930-yards until they reach the city’s famous bull ring. Once the bulls arrive at the ring, they face off against matadors.

Pamplona Revellers hold up their red handkerchiefs during the opening day or 'Chupinazo' of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls fiesta on July 6, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain. The annual Fiesta de San Fermin, made famous by the 1926 novel of US writer Ernest Hemmingway entitled "The Sun Also Rises", involves the daily running of the bulls through the historic heart of Pamplona to the bull ring. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

American writer Ernest Hemingway captured the scenes of the fiestas in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” making the running of the bulls a famous event. Despite its recent global fame, it is believed the event could date back as far as the 13th century. Originally, the event was a way to herd bulls from their corrals into the bull ring.

Pamplona Revelers hold up their red handkerchiefs during the opening day or 'Chupinazo' of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls fiesta on July 6, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Pamplona Revelers hold up a banner reading 'Refugees Welcome' during the opening day or 'Chupinazo' of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls fiesta on July 6, 2016 in Pamplona, Spain. Photo: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Celebrations meant to honor San Fermin, the patron saint of Navarra, the region where Pamplona is located in northern Spain, have also become intertwined with the festival.

Pamplona Revelers run with the Victoriano del Rio Cortes' fighting bulls along Estafeta street during the fourth day of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls festival on July 9, 2015 in Pamplona, Spain. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Since record keeping began in 1924, 15 people have been gored to death during the festival, the Associated Press reported. Last year four Americans were injured during the festival. Many people sustain injuries when they are trampled by other runners. People under the age of 18 are not allowed to take part in running with the bulls.

Pamplona Revelers run with the Tajo and the Reina's fighting bulls entering Estafeta street during the third day of the San Fermin Running of the Bulls festival on July 8, 2015 in Pamplona, Spain. Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images

Animal rights activists protested the start of the festival Tuesday covering themselves in fake blood in Pamplona’s main square. Activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and AnimaNaturalis wanted to draw attention to the “cruelty” animals undergo during the festival. Each year approximately 54 bulls die, the Huffington Post reported. Veterinarians have examined the suffering of the bulls in recent years. Some of the methods employed by matadors and their assistants to kill the bulls have been banned in European Union slaughterhouses, Vox reported

Pamplona Activists covered in fake blood protest against bullfighting and bull-running during a demonstration called by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Anima Naturalis pro-animal groups on the eve of the San Fermin festivities in the Northern Spanish city of Pamplona on July 5, 2016. The San Fermin festival is a symbol of Spanish culture that attracts thousands of tourists to watch the bull runs despite heavy condemnation from animal rights groups. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA/AFP/Getty Images