By Anna Mejorada
The third Running of the Goats took place at 120th Street on a sunny and mild Wednesday morning in Riverside Park.
“It’s a very quirky event!” exclaimed Marleen who came all the way from the Upper East Side.
New Yorkers politely lined up along a pathway to get a good view of this year’s herd. As the enthusiastic crowd continued to grow – many sporting official Go(a)tham t-shirts from previous years – a bit of sobering news was delivered.
“I know they are very cute. I know it’s very tempting,” announced Whitney Deardan, Director of Public Programming at Riverside Park Conservancy, “but we are under very strict orders this year to not touch or pet the goats.”
Despite the museum-like restrictions on engagement from the New York City Health Department, the anticipation continued to build.
“I come here every year. I just love it!” said Upper West Sider Katie Sabella.
“They are really cool,” shared Julian, age 8, from Harlem, as he led his younger siblings to the front towards a better vantage point.
John Herrold, interim CEO of the Riverside Park Conservancy and Riverside Park Administrator, kicked off the spirited opening remarks. “I have the unique honor of ushering in the bevy of bovines this morning,” Mr. Herrold proudly proclaimed. “When people hear that the goats are here, they hoof it uptown to see what’s going on.”
Playful goat-related jokes and puns were sprinkled throughout the ceremony by elected officials.
“Pamplona has the Running of the Bulls, we have the Running of the Goats,” joked Manhattan Park Commissioner Bill Castro.
“I understand this is a critical way to save on lawn mower gas,” quipped Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.
And Council Member Gale Brewer joyfully exclaimed,” I love celebrating the masters of eating!”
All expressed their sincere gratitude for the NYC Parks Department and the Riverside Park Conservancy, and commended the organizations for working together to bring a sustainable, chemical-free method of removing invasive species to Riverside Park.
Then it was time to welcome the GOATS!
A countdown led by the Riverside Park Conservancy staff and the crowd erupted into cheers as 20 goats – all hailing from Green Goats farm in Rhinebeck, New York – were released and ushered to their workspace.
As the goats got to work, their adoring fans snapped photos, selected their favorite, and picked up this year’s Go(a)tham-themed merchandise, including t-shirts, totes, and goat stuffed animals, all benefiting the Riverside Park Conservancy.
Four goats will remain in the park throughout the summer. Skittles is returning for a third year along with 2019’s fan-favorite Cheech, and two newcomers – Big “G” and Elenor.
The quad will spend their days chomping away on non-native plants and vines through an area of Riverside Park’s Bird Sanctuary with steep slopes that make it difficult to traverse without a set of hooves. Their roughage-filled menu of disruptive growths includes Porcelain Berry, English Ivy, Mugwort, Multiflora Rose, and Poison Ivy. Goats have a seemingly insatiable appetite and can consume 25% of their own body weight in vegetation in just one day. Plus, the non-native plants the goats consume turn into nutrients for the soil.
The feasting in Riverside Park will continue until the end of August or early September, depending on how quickly they eat through their veggie buffet. The Riverside Park Conservancy has a dedicated team of 70 composed of both staff members and volunteers to care for the goats. Each evening, a small group will shepard the goats into their tent.