GRANTVILLE, Pa (WHTM) — We’ve seen people race a ton of things in sports: cars, horses and even racing on foot. But thousands flocked to Penn National Race Course this weekend for one of the most unique racing events in the country.

They lined the rails hours early to watch camel and ostrich races.

When the event idea was first introduced by Director of Racing Eric Johnston years ago, it was met with a lot of skepticism.

“He introduced this idea to his board and they thought he hit his head and fell off a racehorse or something. And the first year, there was a crowd like you couldn’t believe it,” said Joe Hedricks, the President of Hedrick Promotions, the Kansas-based company that supplies the race track with the camels and ostriches.

It’s now one of the biggest days of the season for Penn National and going into its seventh year and every year more and more fans learn of this fun event.

“We have been planning on this for about a month. it’s not a joke,” Jessica Wheeler, who came to the race track with her family just to see the unique races. “I thought we just let (the ostriches) go and they just ran. I didn’t think people rode them. So that’s even more exciting.

Camels have been ridden as methods of transportation for humans for thousands of years. But, how do you ride an ostrich?

Even the professionals don’t have an answer…

“People are falling off and they start doing circles and stuff. it’s pretty cool,” said Jonathan Lloyd, who has been a professional horse jockey for more than two decades. “I’m a firm believer like, control is overrated and this is a perfect example of control is overrated. You go with the flow.”

But Hedrick says you just need two traits to be able to ride these big birds.

“I tell the jockeys that are going to be riding it, it’s all about balance. If you’re a water-skier or wakeboarder or snowboarder, 4-wheeler. All about balance,” he said. “And courage to do it. You can’t have second thoughts you got to be into it if you’re going to do it, but balance is the most important part.”

Penn National is one of the only courses in the east that Hedrick Promotions makes a stop to, they many stay in the Midwest and South, but plan to continue their relationship with Penn National well into the future.

Original source credited to ABC27 News

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