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A group of llamas and their handlers walk down Davis Street during the "Running of the Llamas" parade last year in Hammond. (Submitted Photo)

See the llamas run in Hammond on Saturday

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The sight of a llama running through the streets may seem strange to some, but to Hammond residents, seeing the camel-like animal roaming the streets signals the arrival of the annual Running of the Llamas.

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The event, which takes place Saturday,Sept. 14, started off as a customer appreciation dinner many years ago, but grew into an annual event featuring the tall, wooly creatures known for their fluffy coat running down Davis Street.

"I think the whimsical-ness of the people running llamas up the street is one of the main things people enjoy about [the event]," Anderson said. "And we have a guy on a mic commentating on the races to go along with huge banners that say start and finish, which add to the whimsical-ness. Overall, I think it is just the silliness of the whole thing that people like."

Twelve llamas will race in four heats featuring four racers per heat, with the first race starting at 3 p.m. The llamas run for a block down Davis Street while tethered to their handlers. The winner of each heat will race for the championship. The winning llama takes home the biggest basket of vegetables for themselves.

"The race is a block long and it starts halfway down one block and ends halfway down the other," Anderson said. "The llamas are actually tethered to their handlers, who run with them during the race. Sometimes, the llama gets ahead of the runner and sometimes the llama doesn't want to go."

The event will also feature vendors offering a variety of products from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with many of their products being llama related. A rib fest will also be part of the festivities and will include six to eight vendors selling ribs. Two out-of-town judges will judge the ribs, with the winner being announced at 6 p.m. The community band takes the stage at 1 p.m., followed by a parade which starts at 2:30 p.m.

"The parade lasts about 20 minutes and it is all whimsical," Anderson said. "We have unicyclists, hula hoopers and of course, all the llamas."

The festival has grown over the years and even found its way into a story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last year.

"It is fun and we are getting more people all the time," Anderson said. "It is just kind of silly and something different that people don't see all the time. The parade is silly and there are a lot of businesses that participate in it. I teach a unicycling class, so I invite them to be part of the parade. There is a hula hoop group from Stillwater that comes out too, and we have local kids who hula hoop with them too."

Foster Hall will be set up as llama headquarters and will be where visitors can pick up official 17th Annual Running of the Llamas T-shirts and other souvenirs.

Children will get the chance to visit the llamas from noon until the races start at 3 p.m. Kids can also ride on the Little Tykes Express, a colorful train of kiddie cars throughout the day.

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Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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