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Special Events

Johns Hopkins Turtle Derby

Turtle derby 2014 logo

The 83rd AnnualTurtle Derby Takes Place Friday, May 16, 2014

Every spring since 1931 (and now every May), turtles have ambled out from a starting gate and crawled to victory in the Annual Johns Hopkins Turtle Derby.  Imports from U.S. turtle farms, where they are subsequently returned, they "race" to the cheering of neighborhood children, Hopkins faculty, staff, residents, patients and their families, egged on by Johns Hopkins Medical School students in jockey silks. Proceeds benefit the Department of Child Life at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Anyone can name a turtle and enter it in one of the afternoon's multiple races for a small fee in the two weeks leading up to the derby and purchase derby accessories, including T-shirts and pins, while they're at it.

In 2014, turtle "chances" and accessories are on sale outside of the Child Live TV studio, main level of the Bloomberg Children's Center building at Johns Hopkins Hospital, May 5-9 and May 12-15,  11:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m. New in 2014: Turtle chances, which include naming a turtle, can be purchased online, beginning May 5.  

 The race takes place, 12:30-1:30 p.m., in fair weather in the Peterson Courtyard of Johns Hopkins Hospital, 1800 Orleans Street in East Baltimore. The event is free and open to the public.

The 2009 derby.      The 2008 derby.

Turtle Derby 2008 Detail Photo

A traditional prelude to the Preakness in Baltimore, the turtle derby's origins are traced back to Benjamin Frisby, a hospital caretaker and doorman who kept a small turtle pen outside the original hospital administration building.  Soon, a racetrack was built and wagers were made, all in the name of building community among the medical residents.

The derby is organized and hosted by first year medical students and radiography students, with help from Child Life and the Office of Student Activities at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Turtle Trivia:

Q: What type of turtles are these?

A: They vary. Some years they are red-eared sliders.

Q: Why do turtles move so slowly?

A: Physically, turtles are slow because they have a very slow metabolism, which means their bodies process energy little by little. But animals with slow metabolisms often live longer  – some turtles live for more than one hundred years!


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