Virginia City, Nevada, is one of the must see attractions when visiting the Lake Tahoe/Reno/Carson City area no matter what time of year it is. However, the weekend after Labor Day finds this small western town home to one of the most unusual sporting events in the U.S.
Proposal on Camel Back!
During it’s heyday as a mining community dromedary camels were brought in to help carry salt and general supplies but after a while the V&T Railroad took over a lot of that work, and the camels were turned loose eventually to disappear. But they were to make a spectacular comeback.
It all started in 1959 when Bob Richards, editor of the “Territorial Enterprise” wrote a fictitious account of the city’s “Camel Races” and followed up the next year with an announcement of the upcoming races. So in 1960 the San Francisco “Chronicle” took up the challenge and director John Huston rode to victory in the first camel race on a camel that had been borrowed from the San Francisco Zoo. Since that time the races have occurred every year, and in 1987 the competition became international in scope when Alice Springs, Australia, became Virginia City’s sister city.
I first visited the camel races in Virginia City in 2004 and had such a great time I documented the weekend and released the film “Dromedary Daze” which can be purchased at Amazon.com. You can view short videos of the camel races and tours through local attractions like the Mark Twain museum on my YouTube channel, but there is nothing like experiencing Virginia City and this 50 year old tradition of camel racing in person.
Soso and President of International Order of Camel Jockeys
There are many levels on which to experience camel racing weekend. You can buy a spectator ticket and enjoy the fun from the stands, but there are other opportunities to participate from sponsoring races to becoming a camel or ostrich jockey. And it is not just the races that bring people to town; there are the social events, like the parade and one of the more popular events, the Hump Ball, where you can bid in a silent auction to help a local charity or mingle with camel jockeys and sponsors as well as some of the more colorful characters of Virginia City.
Feel free to dress the part and wear your cowboy regalia while visiting the town or even if you’re relaxing in tourist duds you’ll find scads of attractions, museums, Piper’s Opera House, one of the only statues of Lady Justice that has no blindfold and some of the most interesting bars west of the Mississippi… some of them complete with their own mineshafts!! Plan to spend at least a couple of days in town but better book a room early because the population of the town tends to boom during this very popular weekend.
For more information about Camel Racing weekend and other events that occur in Virginia City, NV visit the Chamber of Commerce http://www.virginiacity-nv.org/
I will be taking a film crew out to the Camel races this year because it is the 50th anniversary and someone needs to document this unusual and colorful sporting event and its history. We are seeking donations to help us with this endeavor and although this is not a non-profit venture any donors will be listed in the films credits. Donations can be sent to our PayPal account at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you’d like to see some highlights from the Camel races you can view some at YouTube, just search for Soso Whaley and camel racing.