ANCHORAGE, Alaska – From sausages to stews, reindeer are usually a main dish in Alaska.
But the antlered animals were the main event at Anchorage's first annual running of the reindeer.
A cheering crowd of hundreds lined snow-packed Fourth Avenue Sunday to watch what was touted as Alaska's version of Spain's famed running of the bulls.
"Normally we just eat them," said Mark Berg, a spectator who has lived in Alaska since 1967. "I just made some jambalaya the other day out of reindeer sausage. I've eaten more of their cousins than they want to know."
Seven little reindeer, looking a bit bewildered, stood next to their handlers as a crowd of roughly 1,000 costumed runners chatted excitedly at the start.
The reindeer were lined up behind the first heat of runners — several hundred women in costume. One had taped a paper bulls-eye to her back. Others masqueraded as carrots and lichen, both favorite foods of reindeer.
At the signal to go, the reindeer stampeded into the crowd. Passing tourist shops, the downtown federal building and a stand selling reindeer hotdogs, the animals were well out in front by the halfway point.
"We thought, 'Ok, they're just going to mosey along,' but they took off running," said Amanda Pelkola, who dressed as a carrot with a friend. "We got smoked by the reindeer."