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International Camel Races celebrates 50 years in Virginia City

camelraces1600They snort. They spit. Sometimes they bite. They may be the most ornery animals on four legs – at least any animal you would consider riding. And they’re coming to Northern Nevada’s Virginia City to race.

The Virginia City International Camel Races celebrate its 50th running Sept. 11-13 in this Wild West town, offering high drama in the high desert hills outside of Reno. While the dromedaries are not known for their speed – some even choose to go the wrong way on occasion – the awkward gallops, jockeys hanging on for dear life, and the whooping of the crowd is a spectacle worth seeing.

A piece of Nevada history

The camel races started as a lie, when Virginia City’s Territorial Enterprise newspaper in 1959 made up a story about camel racing on the Comstock. The story found its way into other newspapers, and eventually the San Francisco Chronicle and the Phoenix Sun challenged each other to a race.

So the races were on, the year that the “Misfits” starring Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, and directed by John Huston, were in Virginia City filming the movie. Huston, riding for the Chronicle, won the first camel race.

While you’re here

Virginia City’s roots go deep. The onetime commercial and cultural center of the West was borne out of the silver boom in the mid-nineteenth century. Much of that history, from the boardwalks, museums and preserved saloons, to the fully functional V&T Railroad, lives on today, offering visitors a true Wild West experience.

For more information about Virginia City and the International Camel Races, call 1-800-718-7587 or go online to VisitVirginiaCityNV.com.

Sept. 10

  • 6 p.m. Jockey Party at the Red Dog Saloon

Sept. 11

  • 1:30-5 p.m. Media Races

Sept. 12

  • Noon C Street Parade featuring camels, floats, marchers, hot rods, llamas and equestrian teams
  • 1:30-5 p.m. Camel Races, including a children’s fun zone with a bounce house, fast draw competition (ages 12 and up), pony and camel rides
  • Evening Camel Hump Ball at the Old Freight Depot

Sept. 13

  • 1:30-5 p.m. Championship Races
  • General Admission is $10; VIP tickets are $40; Family Pack is $25; Junior/Senior/Military $8