Holland, MI---Harness Racing has been called "America’s First Great Pastime" and for many years the sounds of hoofbeats have made heartbeats go faster.
|Photos courtesy of the author|
|The "Happy Horse" mascot will greet fans at the races.|
The Wolverine Futurity, featuring the State’s premier 2- and 3-year-old trotters and pacers, began in 1942 and has been a mainstay in Holland at the Ottawa County Fair since 1980.
Though racing has fallen on hard times in Michigan, the tradition and spirit of this proud sport with fast horses, close-up competition and colorful drivers will continue as long as its feasible, according to Director of Racing, Dale Zahn.
“No other sport offers the fans a chance to get up close and personal with the horses, their drivers, trainers and grooms; it’s a wonderful thing,” Zahn said.
This year, the racing action starts July 22 at 7 p.m. at the Fairgrounds on Ottawa Beach Road, one of the finest fairgrounds and half-mile racetracks in Michigan, something residents can truly be proud of. While the stars of the show are the horses and drivers, Zahn pointed out that “It’s entertainment. It’s a Show, and that means more than just the races themselves.”
|The MSU Spartan gladiator chariot will also make an appearance at the fair.|
Kids will enjoy meeting and perhaps having a picture taken with “Happy Horse,” the official mascot of the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association. In a bit or irony, the Wolverine will welcome the Spartan as Professor of Equine Exercise and Physiology, Brian Nielsen, will appear as a Spartan Gladiator in the MSU Chariot. The team can be seen in the barn area prior to the races and on the track during the opening ceremonies.
(As some recall, a weld broke last year only minutes before they were to appear on the track, so the parading in front of the grandstand was aborted. This year, the hope is that such bad luck will not repeat itself.)
Another treat will be the appearance of professional racetrack announcer and bugler, James Witherite, who is a multi-talented young man that has announced Thoroughbred and harness races at over 60 tracks in North America and is currently the race caller at Tioga Downs in New York. When not calling races, he is a professional musician and once again he will bring his bugle and suited up in colorful regalia he’ll entertain fans and do variations of the “call to post.”
In addition, the show will feature a chance to win cash by correctly picking the winners of the evening’s races and plans are to have drivers help in a T-shirt toss whereby colorful T-shirts will be hurled into the grandstand and snatched up by lucky fans.
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