Virginia City hosts 43rd Camel Races |

Virginia City hosts 43rd Camel Races

by Susie Vasquez, Appeal Staff Writer
Several of eight camels to be in the Virginia City Camel Races chew on plants Thursday in Stagecoach, Photo by Brian Corley

A story in Thursday’s Nevada Appeal about the Virginia City Camel Races contained incorrect information based on last year’s event. Today’s story has the correct information about the race next weekend.

A 6-year-old camel named Milagro ambled slowly toward the fence at the Nevada Camel Co. near Stagecoach. His lips wobbled with each step as his large, dark eyes fixed on the green tumbleweed just beyond reach.

“They eat just about anything out here and they love tumbleweed — anything that’s thick and juicy,” said Andrew Cartwright, one of the owners of the Nevada Camel Co.

The burly, tanned Australian man pulled the prickly weed by its roots, feeding parts to each of the six camels waiting patiently beyond the fence.

These amiable dromedaries, together with emus and ostriches, will be sidling up to the starting gates for Virginia City’s 43rd International Camel Races, Sept. 6 through 8.

Gold panning, a parade down Virginia City’s C Street and three days of spirited racing highlight this a one-of-a-kind event in Virginia City.

The races start at 2 p.m. Friday, followed by a barbecue and dance at the Old V&T Depot on E Street. The barbecue, sponsored by the Nevada Camel Co., costs $7 and features tri-tip meals with all the fixings. The dance starts at the Depot after the barbecue. A parade down C Street is scheduled for noon Saturday.

Historically, camels run in any direction, but this is the first time the Nevada Camel Co. has supplied the animals and according to company owner Gary Jackson, most of his animals are seasoned veterans.

“I’m hoping the races are clean,” he said. “Most of my stock is used to running from point to point. But you know, camels are camels.”

The dromedaries will race two, three or four at the time, the winning sponsors advancing to Sunday’s finals.

Well worth a trip to Virginia City, the event has historic roots. In August of 1866, sportsmen and miners thought it would be fun to race two camels, which were used to transport salt to the Comstock mills.

A September issue of San Francisco’s Alta California featured a crude woodcut of the event showing two men astride running camels while a small dog barked in the foreground. A horse reared behind spectators watching the race, but no further details of the event were given, in a maddening fashion typical of the time.

Local newspaper files were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1875 and references in the Territorial Enterprise’s “Looking Backward” were equally sketchy. But the race was run and the present day Virginia City Camel Races are a re-enactment of that part of Western history.

Prices for the event vary. Friday admission costs $4 for juniors, seniors and members of the military, $6 general admission, $15 per family and $30 for the VIP tent. Pre-sale weekend passes cost $15 for juniors, $22 general admission, $55 per family or $70 for VIP admission.

For more information, call the Virginia City Convention and Tourism Authority at 847-7500 or the Virginia City and Gold Hill Chamber of Commerce at 847-0311.

If you go

What: Virginia City International Camel Races

When: Sept. 6-8

Where: Virginia City

Friday, Sept. 6

— 11 a.m. – Educational presentation

— 11:30 a.m. – Mountain Man Living History and Gold Panning Demonstrations throughout the day, VIP tent opens

— 12:30 p.m. – Jockey orientation and review of safety rules

— 2 p.m. – Media races

— 6 p.m. – Barbecue at Old V&T Depot

— 7:30 p.m. – Camel Race Kickoff/Sponsor Appreciation party, and a drawing for spots in the first race

Saturday, Sept. 7

— 11 a.m. – Mountain Man Living History and Gold Panning Demonstrations throughout the day, VIP tent opens

— 12 noon – Grand Parade on C Street

— 1 p.m. – First Camel Race set

— 3:30 p.m. – Second Camel Race set

Sunday, Sept. 8

— 11 a.m. – Mountain Man Living History and Gold Panning Demonstrations throughout the day, VIP tent opens

— 12 noon – First Camel Race Set

— 1:30 p.m. – Second Camel Race Set

— 3:30 p.m. – Championship Race, followed by presentation of awards