Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Day at the Races & More

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.
DSCN1890The 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. imageIn 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 wrestlingimage 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.

DSCN1620Another first for us was watching the greased pig contest. No piglets were injured and the kids were OK too. DSCN1771 DSCN1776
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Which way did they go?
And what would a fair be without tractors . . . antique models in red, orange and green and yellow (of course).
DSCN1934 DSCN1937
DSCN1950 DSCN1934 TDSCN1981These tractors were entered in the antique tractor pull that Grenville posted about earlier. They may be old, but they’re still going strong.


Elaine said...

This fair really looks like a lot of fun. The greased pig contest must have been hilarious to watch, and I love all those antique tractors. A lot of love and time went into restoring them.

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

The fair was fun so we thought but there was not a huge turnout on Sat when we were there. The greased pig contest was lots of fun for the kids and the animals were not hurt, but ran fast to get away from everyone chasing them. While some of the antique tractros had obviously been well cared for; some looked their age. But all proived they are still farm workhorses.

Anonymous said...

GREAT video!!!!!! I bet next time you won't hit the stop button so soon.
AND great story....

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