Kyhia finishes in first place at Running of the Llamas
After finishing in third place at last year's Running of the Llamas, Kyhia and handler Nick Meyer beat out the rest of the field to claim the title and take home the largest basket of veggies.
"I was so excited to come across the line and take first place," Meyer, of Sun Prairie, Wis., said. "I was also really excited for [Kyhia], too. I think she understood what she was doing."
Kyhia, owned by Wes and JoAnn Belz of New Richmond, won her first heat easily, but needed an extra boost of energy as she approach the finish line in the championship race to cross the finish line before second place finisher Fiona, who was guided by Sue Allhiser of Maplewood, Minn.
"Kyhia, the llama, is what made the difference this year," said Meyer, who has run with Kyhia the last two years. "She was really keyed up this time. Last year, she was more nervous since it was her first year ever racing. I think she was still nervous this time, but I think she was nervous in a different way."
Coming in third was Angle, owned and raced by Marina Becklin, 14, of Stansfield, Minn. Fiona is owned by Vashton Buhr of Clear Lake, Minn. Pez, owned by Ashton Anderson, 12, of Osceola, came in fourth in the championship race.
"Some of the races were really close this year," said event/llama coordinator Sheila Fugina. "Sometimes the llamas don't want to run and sometimes they do."
Despite an overcast and cool day, a large crowd showed up for the races and stayed for the rib fest and band after the champion was crowned.
"This was a super Running of the Llamas," Fugina said. "The weather was great for the llamas since it was cool and not too hot for them like it has been in the past. We also had a really great crowd at the races, too. A lot of families and kids were there having a good time."
Fugina feels the 17th Running of the Llamas brought in an even bigger crowd than last year, but she hopes that even as the event continues to gain popularity it will stay grounded and still be seen as a small town affair.
"We definitely had more people here this year, I could feel that just from standing on the street during the races," Fugina said. "The crowd was so big we had a tough time holding them back and making sure that the llamas had enough space to race down the street. Even though [the event] went really well, we can't really afford to get much bigger since this year we got all we could handle. And if we let it grow too big we'll lose that small town feeling that is really special."
Next year's Running of the Llamas will be held Sept. 13, and Fugina hopes to have some new things for visitors to experience for the 18th annual event.
"We always like to do something different and try to surprise people with something new," Fugina said. "We want to add something that will make each event different from the last and keep things fun for everyone."