While candidates ran to represent the Democratic and Republican parties in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, on Wednesday four goats began the race for the title of G.O.A.T (Greatest of All Time) as the annual “Running of the Goats” returned to Riverside Park.
This is the third year that the celebrity goats came to Riverside Park after the initiative began in 2019 (the goats were forced to work from home in 2020 due to the pandemic). The goats will occupy a fenced-in hillside on 121st Street and spend the summer gulping down poisonous plants in hard-to-reach places to make room for native species that will provide a better habitat for wildlife.
“The men and women of Riverside Park work very hard and they never shrink from a challenge ... but have you seen this slope over here?” Interim CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy and Riverside Park Administrator John Herrold said, adding that the goats are natural weed whackers and can clean steep slopes that humans just can’t reach.
At 11 a.m. on Tuesday, the 20 goats hailing from Rhinebeck, New York ran into the park at 120th Street as their two-legged human friends cheered them on. Some dogs were also in attendance but seemed unimpressed by the series of baaaaad goat puns, and may have wished they, instead of the goats, were the recipients of the loud applause.
“Chowing Down on the Big Apple”
Four of the goats, 2019 fan favorite Cheech, two-time veteran Skittles and two newcomers, Big “G” and Elenore, will stay in the park until the end of August or early September depending on how quickly they eat the invasive plants (they can typically chow down 100 pounds a day per goat).
“Of course, they never travel without their posse ... they brought along with them 16 of their cohort from Rhinebeck New York to spend the afternoon chowing down on the Big Apple, and they’ll also be chowing down on Porcelain Berry, Multiflora Rose and of course, everyone’s favorite, Poison Ivy,” Herrold said.
This year, onlookers weren’t allowed to pet the goats due to safety precautions, and the goats will stay fenced in for the remainder of the summer.
“Just in case, do you know how to stop a goat that’s charging?” Herrold asked. “You unplug it.”
Also in attendance were Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro, Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine and City Council Member Gale Brewer. Levine praised the conservancy for the innovation and excitement that they bring to Riverside Park.
“[The goats] are a lot of fun, but they have been a fantastic investment by the conservancy in helping us improve the park” Levine said, adding that the “leadership of the conservancy is a bunch of bleating hearts.”
“I noticed in past years, Governors Island copied Riverside Park and they had goats, but you know what? We were first,” Brewer joked.
The Ultimate G.O.A.T
Later in the summer, fans will be able to vote for their favorite goat to be crowned the ultimate G.O.A.T at the end of the summer. The contest is sure to be a competitive one, as each goat has their own unique personality and leadership qualities that would make them fit for office.
Last time the race was held, some goats didn’t play by the rules. Notably, last year a goat named Ms. Bo Peep (who was trailing in votes at the time) launched a negative campaign ad against front-runners Skittles and Chalupa. Hopefully, this year’s race will be a more friendly one and avoid any head-butting.