Move over race cars: camels, buffaloes and antelopes have invaded the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway infield. A rare white baby camel highlights the many exotic and domestic animals that are adding extra flare to Carolina Christmas at the speedway with a petting zoo, pony rides and even a live nativity scene.
Carolina Christmas visitors can enjoy interacting with a wide variety of animals throughout the Christmas Village, which is open each Thursday through Sunday until Dec. 31, excluding Christmas Day. Ivey and Gerald Almond of Midland, N.C., own and operate Rockin’ A Ranch, which provides all of the animals for Carolina Christmas.
The white baby camel, named Mo, is only six months old and is a dromedary, or one-hump camel. Dromedaries are the most popular breed of camels. However, white camels of the breed are quite rare, something that the Almonds believe will be popular with Carolina Christmas visitors.
“Mo is a ham and giddy for attention; always looking for the spotlight,” said Ivey Almond.
However, Mo is not the only attraction as other animals, including cows, sheep, donkeys and goats, will be on display in the live Nativity scene located in the Bethlehem Village.
Visitors can also enjoy the popular petting zoo located just outside of the Coca-Cola Igloo in the infield at no cost and can feed the animals by purchasing a treat cup for just $2. The petting zoo features more than 50 animals and contains a variety of domestic and exotic animals, nearly all of which are raised on the Almonds’ 100-acre farm.
Some of the animals on display include two Niagil antelope, native to India; one baby water buffalo, native to Asia; one baby yak, native to Tibet; one baby American bison; and alpacas, native to South America. Other animals include three different breeds of sheep, five different breeds of goats, two breeds of turkeys and ducks.
In addition to their petting zoo, Rockin’ A Ranch also offers pony rides for children visiting Carolina Christmas. These ponies are all white and their saddles are decorated for the Christmas season. Children can enjoy pony rides for only $5.
The Almonds’ goal is not only to entertain but also to educate people on these precious animals.
“Children don’t often get a chance to interact with animals and are being taught very little about livestock, so I feel like I’m making a difference,” said Ivey. “I get a great deal of pleasure teaching the children and the adults about different animals.”
For the Almonds, the reward of seeing how children and adults react to their petting zoo is what keeps them passionate about their ranch and animals.
“For the older folks, the animals are a walk down memory lane. For the little ones, the animals are stranger than science fiction,” said Ivey. “It’s such a delight and pleasure to hear the children laugh and enjoy the clean and friendly animals on exhibit. We have treats visitors can buy to feed the animals and the kids just love it.”
The Almonds take pride in operating a clean and healthy environment for all the animals.
“Animal safety and enjoyment is very important to us, our animals are kept at an USDA-approved farm and are all regularly vetted by licensed veterinarians.”
Visitors can see Mo, and all of the other animals, at Carolina Christmas, one of the largest holiday light shows in the United States, featuring a spectacular drive-through course with nearly 600 different LED light displays, marshmallow roasting pits and themed areas for children with food, music, rides and photos with Santa.
Operating hours for Carolina Christmas are 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 31st excluding Christmas Day. Tickets are available online at www.visitcarolinachristmas.com or at the gate nightly during event hours for drive-up traffic. Admission is just $20 per car, truck or SUV for up to eight passengers. Group and motorcoach packages are also available.
Families may also take advantage of The Speedway Club's Holiday Dinners and Carolina Christmas packages, which includes a speedway-provided ride through the Carolina Christmas display and a holiday meal. For more information, call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com.
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