Camel turns out to be a hit with riders

Jabara the camel has one hump, and that was enough to steal the RAGBRAI spotlight in Mount Vernon Friday.

The full-grown camel, who the owners estimate to be 7 or 8 years old, spent the morning in a small, fenced-in area at the heart of commotion in the meetup town. And he seemed perfectly content posing for photos with the masses while stuffing his face with hay.

“He’s kind of a rockstar. He comes to all the events around here and he loves be attention,” said his owner Karen Thornton of Mount Vernon.

Jabara lives just north of Mount Vernon on a farm with some horses and goats but no other exotic animals.

He moved there about five years ago, when Thornton and her friend Carlena Minors bought him, somewhat spontaneously, from Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas. He needed a new home because the zoo lost space to another, older camel.

For the last several years he’s been a regular at local Christmas pageants, vacation Bible school events and temporary petting zoos.

Thornton said he’s also been a source of joy for children with special needs.

So bringing him out for the RAGBRAI festivities was a no brainier.

“Camels are beasts of burden, domestic animals really in most parts of the world. They’re great with this kind of interaction.”

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