Each September, camels, ostriches, and jockeys from around the world converge on Virginia City, Nevada for the former mining town’s International Camel & Ostrich Races. We attended the quirky event last year, and it’s taking place again this weekend for the 54th time.
During the sizzling Saturday afternoon we visited Virginia City, before the ostriches and camels took to the dusty course, we first stopped by the Silver Queen Hotel & Saloon. The image of the ‘Silver Queen’ covers an entire wall, and her dress glistens with more than 3,000 silver dollars. We also perused candy stores lined with barrels brimming with water taffy, display cases filled with plates of caramel apples, and squares of rich, delicious fudge. As motorcycles chugged along the road past porticoed storefronts adorned with red, white and blue bunting, we brushed shoulders with individuals that could’ve stepped off a wild west film set. There were opportunities to pan for gold, explore the now-defunct mines that made some speculators billions in the 1800s, and pose with John Wayne cut-outs. But we would save those activities for another time, for we had come to spend the day at the races. We did, however, succumb to having our sepia-toned image snapped at one of the local photo studios. In the last photo of this post, you can see us masquerading as bank robbers.
Down by the camel race track, a banjoist strummed away, while a twangy-voiced emcee got the ostriches and camels’ professional and novice jockeys ready to go. And soon they were off, kicking up tornado-like spirals of dirt as they made their way around the course. By the afternoon’s end, we left Virginia City with sun-kissed cheeks, dusty shoes, and the certainty that we’ll never look at camels in quite the same way as we had before these races in the wild, wild west.
Where in the World?
- Virginia City’s camel races take place annually, in early September. While there is a fee to enter the races, one can watch the parade at no cost. See Virginia City’s website for more details.
Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.