We went to the races last Saturday – 16 in all – and never even caught a glimpse Groucho, Harpo or Chico Marx, stars of the 1927 film of the same name.
Our day tripping adventure took us to the Great Pocomoke Fair in Wooster County, MD where we watched harness racing – this was a first for Grenville and myself. We learned some new things and didn’t lose anything (but time) as there was no betting involved.
Harness racing is a form of horse racing in which horses run at a specified gait and usually pull the driver in a two-wheeled cart - sulky. Most harness races start from behind a motorized vehicle which has a hinged gate and takes them to the starting line. At the starting line, the wings of the gate are folded up (but not in this case) and the vehicle speeds up away from the horses.
The sulky, also called a bike, is a wheeled cart with large bicycle type wheels. The driver (not a jockey as in thoroughbred races) carries a long light whip which is used to signal the horse by tapping and to make noise by striking the sulky shaft. There are strict rules as to the use of the whip. Almost all North American races are run a distance of 1 mile.
The Great Pocomoke Fair started in 1901 and was called "Great" at least up through 1909, had all the elements of rural county fairs – fruits of the harvest, handiwork and crafts and farm animal displays. Plus, the added feature of horse racing. In 1907, admission was 25 cents for adults; children under 12 paid 15 cents. You needed a quarter to park a carriage and horse. By 1930, admission rose to 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children under 12. Admission was $2 for adults last weekend or 25 cents (as in 1907) with a discounted coupon (which we had).
Entertainment included games of chance, boxing and wrestling matches and sideshows with snake charmers and fortune tellers. Horse racing was a fair highlight even then. Trotters owned by folks from as far away as Washington, DC came to race. Races were run for four consecutive days with as many as 12 horses in each race. Last weekend, the largest field of entries we saw had 5 horses; most had only 3 or 4 entries.
At the turn of the century, six hotels hosted visitors – the Ford House, Parker House, Hotel Pocomoke, Worcester House, Riverside and Landing House – all gone today. The Fair grounds were about a two minute walk from the train depot and a quarter of a mile from the wharf of the B.C. & A. Railway Company, where four boats a week from Baltimore docked. The fair was a tradition until 1930, when it was discontinued as a result of the Great Depression; it resumed in 1991.
Another first for us was watching the greased pig contest. No piglets were injured and the kids were OK too.
Which way did they go?
And what would a fair be without tractors . . . antique models in red, orange and green and yellow (of course).
TThese tractors were entered in the antique tractor pull that Grenville posted about earlier. They may be old, but they’re still going strong.