With its beginnings as a one-time customer appreciation event for the Hammond Hotel in 1997, the Running of the Llamas soon became an annual event that took on a life of its own. That first year the running wasn’t even a race. Three llamas and their handlers simply ran across the street, around the hotel a couple of times, and then went into one door of the hotel and out the other. Evolving into an actual race, llama owners brought their camelid friends to town, Main Street was blocked off, and the llamas were raced for bragging rights and a bucket of salad greens.
Because the first races were only six to eight llamas, everyone ran down the street at the same time, and the race was over in a flash. More llamas came each year, and the race became a tangled mess as twelve to fourteen llamas and their handlers tried to run down Main Street at the same time. Lead lines tangled, handlers fell to the ground, and llamas were crossing the finish line all on their own! The race was then divided into heats, primarily for safety reasons, but it also resulted in more fun for the spectators as they cheered for their favorite llama and handler as the individual heat winners raced for the greens. Alpacas started attending the event a few years ago and now have their very own heat in the race!
Race sheets listing the llamas, their racing record, and a bit about their personalities are now handed out to the spectators’ ahead of time so they can figure out who to cheer for, and maybe place a friendly wager on. A parade precedes the actual race, and llamas strut their stuff in a variety of colorful costumes. Then, the race is on, the crowd cheering for its favorites, and the top two llamas go home with a bucket of salad greens and vegetables.
Though the race is certainly the high point, fiber demonstrations and activities have been added over the years, as well as a variety of children’s crafts and games. In 2008 the documentary “Running of the Llamas” made its debut, and the Hammond Arts Alliance sponsored a special llama fiber art show. The Running of the Llamas continues to evolve, adding more activities and drawing more people every year.
In 2014, The Running of the Llamas was featured in The New York Times! Click here to view the full article and be sure to check out their video which provides a nice little snapshot of the event.
2016 marked the 20th and final Running of the Llamas event.