Territorial Enterprise, Sep, 1999

How Camel Racing Started
in Virginia City

In the midst of a slow news week during the summer of 1957, Bob Richards, the editor of Virginia City's Territorial Enterprise, Nevada's first newspaper (from 1858), as an escape from boredom, invented a story about camel races which were to occur on Labor Day that year. There were follow-up stories and finally a cancellation on some pretext. He did the same thing in 1958 and 1959 always finding some circumstance to cancel the races at the last minute.

Again in early August of 1960, the now annual story appeared announcing an entry deadline in late August. Shortly before the deadline, the paper excitedly reported that, yes, that year the camels were coming with entries from the San Francisco Chronicle, the Phoenix Gazette and the Indio J.C's.

Movie producer John Houston, in that part of the country to film "The Misfits" with Clark Cable and Marilyn Monroe, on board the Gazette entry easily bested the other two entries, one of which was ridden by veteran jockey Billy Pearson. The explanation for the romp: one camel was left at the starting gate and one decided to take an unscheduled tour through the opera house on B Street where the race was contested. I think that Piper's Opera House may still be recovering from that invasion.

Piper's Opera House, Sep,1999 Because 8,000 came to see this race, the tradition just had to be carried on.

And you can believe every word of this brief account because my source is the unimpeachable official program of this year's event.

Go back to the CAMEL RACES page.