60 Years of Camel & Ostrich Racing on the Comstock

 In Our Tales

An event now almost as historic as the town it calls home, Virginia City, Nevada’s International Camel Races celebrate 60 years in 2019.

Historic Virginia City, Nevada, is known for two things: silver and quirky special events. The International Camel & Ostrich Races first took place here 60 years ago this September and, today, the tradition has ingrained itself as a piece of the town’s identity. September 6-8, 2019, celebrate the event that brings camels, ostriches, zebras and a whole host of other critters to this historic mountain mining town along with the daring jockeys and crowds to cheer them on.

The first camel race in 1959 was the result of a sort of rivalry between the Territorial Enterprise, Virginia City’s newspaper (known for being Mark Twain’s first writing gig) and the San Francisco Chronicle. The editor of the Territorial Enterprise printed a fictitious story about camel races in Virginia City as a hoax, and the editor of the Chronicle reprinted it. The following year, not happy about being made a fool, the Chronicle sent a team to race in Virginia City with a camel borrowed from the San Francisco Zoo – thus beginning a tradition.

“Even though this event has lived for 60 years, we see it as more than just a tradition,” Deny Dotson, director of tourism for the Virginia City Tourism Commission, said. “While we continue to improve the event year over year with more shows, more features and more fun for the whole family to enjoy, we don’t want to lose sight of the history of the event and our town.”

The International Camel & Ostrich Races take place at the Virginia City Arena and Fairgrounds, located on F Street. For the first time, in 2019, Hot Camel Nights offers a Friday evening race, giving the opportunity to beat the September heat and enjoy Virginia City’s nightlife afterward.

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