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Running of the Llamas runs smoothly

Around 20 llamas strutted their stuff around Hammond last weekend.1 / 2
Cutie Pie was champion of the 15th annual Running of the Llamas. Cutie Pie received a large basket of veggies as a prize. He is pictured with his owner and racing partner Kolton Kjeseth Zinn of Amery.2 / 2

There were plenty of llamas, ribs and laughs in Hammond last Saturday, Sept. 10, at the 15th annual Running of the Llamas.

Activities during the day included kid's activities, a craft fair, a brief parade, the highly anticipated running and Rib Fest.

"Despite lower attendance this year, overall the Running of the Llamas was more organized than any other year," said Paulette Anderson, ROTL committee member.

Committee member Sheila Fugina of Shady Ridge Farm agreed.

"Things ran more smoothly--we get better and better every year at ironing out the wrinkles and making the whole event more enjoyable for everyone. One visitor on Saturday remarked, 'This is a well-oiled machine!'" said Fugina.

Anderson estimates there were around 1,500 people in attendance this year, compared to 2,000-3,000 previous years.

While spectators may have enjoyed the mid-80 degree temperatures, Fugina said the llamas would have preferred a cooler day for a run.

"As the coordinator of the llamas and llama owners, I wish it hadn't been quite so hot, but we dealt fairly well with the heat by having the llamas in the shade as much as possible, and they were also well watered," she said.

Another unique visitor who may have preferred some water was Albert the alligator who attended the event with his owner Monty Krizan.

Anderson said having Albert at the event and in the parade brought new excitement to the event.

Around 20 volunteers in bright green T-shirts worked the event organizing the race, answering questions and ensuring spectators stayed a safe distance away from the runners.

Following the running, many spectators attended Rib Fest in the parking lot of the Hammond Hotel.

While the Boston Haas band played country classics, many people sampled ribs from one or all of the six rib vendors participating in the fest.

"The Rib Fest was very successful, 959 rib portions were served," said Anderson.

Race results

Fugina said that the races were the most exciting part of the day.

"Most of the four heats were very close races, and the finishing line judges had to be on their toes. Some of the heats were won by a nose," she said.

Taking first place this year was Cutie Pie, owned and ran by Kolton Kjeseth Zinn, Amery.

According to his biography in the race lineup, a break from running at last year's race helped prep Cutie Pie for the 15th annual Running of the Llamas.

According to his biography, "After several years of being an 'also ran,' Cutie Pie hit pay dirt when he won the 2009 Running. Though he's a short, heavy-set guy who carries a few extra pounds, he's got a can-do attitude that gives him a good shot at winning again this year since he sat out last year's race."

The second place veggie basket went to El Noruego Rojo, raced by Ken Adams. The third place basket was won by Desde, raced by Leeann Hitsman of River Falls.

Fugina said there were plenty of humorous moments during this year's running.

She said the second heat was especially memorable.

"Maggie Carter of Roberts and her llama Boomer were well in front of the others and had the heat nailed when Boomer decided to stop and 'relieve himself' just 20 feet shy of the finish line. Though Maggie tried hard to pull him the rest of the distance, the other two llamas and handlers made it across before she could get Boomer to move," she said.

The final face-off of the winners of the four heats was also really close with all four llamas tightly packed as they went the final distance.

"That hasn't always been true in past years, and it made for much more excitement for the crowd," said Fugina.


Check out the video and photo gallery of the Running of the Llamas

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

(715) 426-1048