The 1998 Virginia City International Camel Races, that is.
Motel sent top correspondents Chris and I up to Viginia City,
Nevada, on September 11, to take in the camel racing action.
The Camel Parade
The day kicked off at 1:00 p.m. local time (1:20 by my watch)
with the Camel Parade. Tourists lined the main drag, C Street,
anxiously awaiting the start of the parade of camels. Few were
distracted by the booth where one could enter to win a Harley
autographed by ZZTop -- why, I cannot say.
C Street is lined with the kinds of establishments any Gold Rush
town would be proud to boast -- specifically, saloons, old time
candy shoppes, saloons, casinos, and more saloons. Situated high
in the mountains between Carson City and Reno, Virginia City affords
a fabulous view, and the day was clear and mild. Occasionally,
our Air Force's finest would give a showy display in the skies
with their fancy airplanes. But mostly the area is quite serene
and sheltered from modernity (though I'm sure they have TVs and
Finally, the parade arrived. Two camels were paraded down C Street.
Riding the camels were two young ladies clothed in Gold Rush era
undergarments (an homage, I believe, to the well-loved ladies
of the night of yesteryear). The crowd followed the parade down
the hill to the racing area.
The Camel Parade
Camel Racing Action!
Around 2:30, the first camels lumbered out of the gate. Almost
immediately, one of the riders fell off. Unfortunately, he was
the rider who had a microphone taped to his arm to provide "the
sound of camel racing" to the audience. The sound was nothing
more than a big "THUMP!"
Apparently, falling off of the camels is not all that uncommon
and, in fact, has become a part of the show. To me, however, the
funniest part was the way the camels run. They look decidedly
uncomfortable running on hard ground, as their front legs flop
in front of them and their hind legs kick out behind. It really
must be seen to be believed.
An extra treat, of sorts, were the ostrich and water buffalo races.
Clearly, neither of these animals were meant to be ridden. Both
women riding the ostriches slid right off within the first few
seconds, sending the ostiches running ahead riderless. Water buffalos
are a little too small to be ridden, so the men in that race were
falling off right and left, too.
What's it cost?
Admission: $8 per person
Corn Dog: $2
The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent ...
Central to the fun were the announcers -- two locals and renowned
American author Mark Twain. We were lucky enough to meet Mr. Twain
on our way into the arena, and were honored with the privelege
of calling him "Sam." Mr. Twain offered many invaluable insights
into camel racing and the western lifestyle throughout the races.
"The coldest winter I ever spent," he said, "was a summer in San
The Virginia City International Camel Races are good, clean, American
style fun. If you have an inclination to go, you should. You will
not be disappointed.