Saturday, September 28, 2013

17th Annual Running of the Llamas – Hammond, WI

I won’t get into how I even heard about this event, but as soon as the topic passed my ears, I knew I was in. A group of us thought this would be the best way to kill a Saturday in the history of the world, so we headed to Hammond without much knowledge of what was about to happen.

We piled M. and Trash Giant, DeltaForceCommander and FireRetarded, D.Rough, ChicaPequena, and SalsaSandwich into various cars and headed to Hammond, Wisconsin (which, thankfully, is a pretty short drive). When we got to the parade route, we heard the announcer say over the PA that for this event, the liquor laws in the town were not in effect. So, open containers are allowed, but keep the glass bottles off the streets. Cans and solo cups only.

The first part of the day is the llama festival. There are food vendors (like 2 or 3), craft vendors (like 2 or 4), llama queens (pre-teen, teen, junior miss, and regular), a couple of beer booths, and a couple of bars. There’s also Llama headquarters at the local art gallery. This gallery is where you'll find a room-full of llama-themed art pieces available for sale, some llama-themed merchandise, and a video about llamas running in a small room.

We started with their version of bacon on a stick. It’s really thick cut bacon and more like a strip of pork belly. But, either way, it’s delicious... especially dipped in the container of maple syrup that comes with it.

Then, mini-donuts. I love me some cinnamon and sugar covered mini donuts!

I kept seeing kids with construction paper llama ears, and I knew I had to sport some myself. Juvenile? Yes. Do I care? Not at all.

We checked out some of the craft booths and then hit up one of the local bars.

Ras’ on Main is a pretty awesome place – sort of a bar in the front/restaurant in the back kind of place. We were intrigued by the list of boozy ice cream drinks they have. Awesome sounding things like the Pink Squirrel, Andes Mint, and the Creamy Punani. I would guess FireRetarded and I both said "creamy punani" about a hundred times this day.

The super nice bartender said she didn’t mind making these kinds of drinks, so we all ended up ordering one. These were some of the best boozy drinks I’ve ever had. They were really fun to drink, especially while watching llamas. I went into the bathroom and like any good Green Bay Packers bar would do, they put a television in the bathroom so you didn’t have to miss the action when the call of nature happens. Brilliant.

We headed out to grab a spot for the parade. Yes, parade. The parade route is literally one rural town block long. So when the owners pull their llamas down the block, followed by 10 unicycles, and finally the float with the giant paper mache llama in it passes the crowd, the parade is over in less than ten minutes. Seriously, less than ten minutes. And, did I mention, the giant llama they built moves his head back and forth and spits water? Absolutely stellar. And, the kids love it.

Then, comes the “running” part of the day. I was led to believe that the llamas were released on the crowd and trampling ensued. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. This event is more about racing the llamas than about them trampling people. I’ll also note here that the llamas don’t actually enjoy said running. It’s more the dragging of the llamas. It’s quite hilarious. Especially when the younger kids are dragging the llamas down the street.

Before the races started, there are lists handed out with the llamas names and origin and which heats they’ll be racing in. This surprisingly led to a large number of people from age 4 to 80 betting on the races. Openly. Envision small children waving five dollar bills in the air when the announcer yells the name of the winner after each race. Cute and awesome at the same time.

At the end of the races, which last all of about 30-40 minutes, the crowd cheers and then disperses to go to the rib fest. Don’t worry. It’s pork ribs, not llama ribs. You buy a meal ticket (actually pretty cheap at $3) and then go stand in line to choose between four different rib vendors. The ribs are all made differently and most come with a side dish of some sort. I had to try ribs from all of the vendors to make sure I had a good representation of the rib quality. Actually, they were all delicious.

There’s a live band that entertains all the people remaining. They were having some technically difficulties with the PA system, but they played through it. I’m hoping M.Giant’s band can get the gig at next year’s event. I think they would be an awesome addition to the festival.

We rolled out of there about 6pm or so, since it looked like some of the crowd was heading towards that rowdy redneck stage. I’m not saying it turns ugly there, I’m just saying we didn’t stick around to watch people break bottles over each others’ heads.

Before we headed out, our friend Joe – who is a champion unicyclist – let FlameRetarded and I try our hand at the unicycle. He gave us a quick lesson and then stood us up with our hands on his shoulders. We were both terrible. But it was fun and something we were told we might pick up after about 10-15 hours of practice.

This was a pretty fun event and I would recommend this thing to everyone. I’m not sure if I’ll go back every year, but I will go back at some point, especially if I get to bring new people to experience this. I know Trash is trying to figure out what we can sell and be vendors next year. We will see. If you’ve got ideas, pitch them at me!

1 comment:

s said...

Sounds a bit like the .10K triathlon. Too funny.