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Labor Day Camel Race to be Transcendent Occasion

Today, the modern-day Virginia City camel racers compete on a track.
COURTESY PHOTO |

With two camels already entered and another “possible” that may yet beat the entry deadline; with bands of music, antique automobiles, members of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus and a corps of Pretty Waiter Girls on hand to lend color to the festivities and with a trophy called the Territorial Enterprise Perpetual Camel Race cup to be awarded the winner, the 1960 running of the Annual Virginia City Labor Day Camel Race promises to be one of the most outstanding observances in the history of the event.

That was the confident prediction offered this week by the Camel Race Committee, Edward D. Gladding, Chairman, as area interest in the re-enactment of an episode in Virginia City’s rich early day history rapidly mounted.

“It’s going to be a lallapaloosa,” was the considered statement of Mrs. Beulah Haddow, Publicity Chairman and herself together with Justice of the Peace Edward Colletti a long time prime mover of the annual affair.

Already entered and due to arrive in Virginia City tomorrow, September 3, for a period of pre-race conditioning are Izmir Kufte, a dromedary sponsored by the San Francisco Chronicle, and Old Heenan, a bactrian carrying the silks of the Phoenix (Ariz.) Gazette. Local historians recall that Old Heenan was the name of the last of the camels who once carried salt from the Esmeralda marshes to the Virginia City mills, and that after retirement he lived for many years on a ranch near Dayton before dying in the early 1880’s.

Also applying for entry which at this time of writing is not yet confirmed is the Indio, Cal., Junior Chamber of Commerce, sponsor of the Annual Indio Date Festival in which the ungainly creatures play a prominent part.

“Since the camels used in the U. S. Army’s unsuccessful desert transport experiment of the mid-nineteenth century also roamed this section of the West we feel we have a legitimate historical precedent for our participation,” said Indio J. C. spokesman.

Signed on to ride the Chronicle and Gazette camels are John Huston, noted motion picture director now in the area for the shooting of the Gable-Monroe film “The Misfits,” and Billy Pearson, San Francisco art dealer and former jockey. Since neither of the riders has ever before ridden a camel and since so far as is known neither of the camels has ever been ridden this will amount to a maiden race for all hands. In charge of the camels during their Comstock sojourn will be Carey Baldwin, a director of San Francisco’s Fleishacker Zoo, and an assistant.

Starting time for the race, to be run a total distance of five eighths of a mile from the reviewing stand in front of the County Courthouse northward on B Street to Mill and return to finish line and reviewing stand will be 3:30 p.m. Monday. On hand to cover it will be reporters representing major wire services and leading newspapers and announcers and cameramen from radio and television networks.

Aiding in the the pre- and post- race entertainment on C and B Streets will be the Reno Municipal Band who will appear through courtesy of Harolds Club. Also on hand will be members of the Kerak Temple Arabians of Reno, all of them in flowing Arab robes and playing Arabian instruments to underline the Middle Eastern flavor of the event.

Adding zest to the program and incidentally seeing to it that local bartenders will have little time to sit on their hands will be members of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus representing chapters in Nevada and California.

The Territorial Enterprise Perpetual Camel Race Cup, to be awarded at a post-race Victory Banquet in the Sharon House, is a chalice of Arabian crystal surmounted by a Comstock silver lid and miniature camel executed by Nick Jackson of Newman’s Silver Shop in Reno. Enterprise executives stated that permanent possession of the trophy may be obtained only after three straight wins.

The Pretty Waiter Girls are members of a San Francisco troupe called the Gold Street Girls who will accompany the large party of guests the San Francisco Chronicle is bringing to the event. Upon arrival at Reno airport the party will be guests of Charles W. Mapes, Jr., head of the Mapes Hotel and the airport bar and restaurant, at a champagne breakfast, and many will be brought to Sun Mountain aboard the antique autos of the Reno Chapter of the Horseless Carriage Club of America.

Local committee members are Edward Gladding, chairman; Justice of the Peace Edward Colletti, vice-chairman; Abraham Kendall and Hobart Leonard, stabling; James Turney, entries; Mrs. Eunice Haddock, refreshments; Roy Shetler, entertainment; Angelo Petrini, accommodation; Mrs. Florence Edwards, caravanserai; and Mrs. Beulah Haddow, publicity.