When you think of horse racing, what comes to mind?
For me it is a mixture of old men clutching a program, chomping on a cigar while betting on the races crossed with the big hats, sun dresses and high society of the winner’s circle.
Two very different ends of the same sport that are still both part of it. But, until this past weekend when I was hired to cover The 2013 Hambletonian I would have never imagined that horse racing was much of a family friendly activity. I was wrong.
The Hambletonian is the biggest event in harness racing with a purse over $1 million.
Held at the Meadowlands Racetrack, it is the only race held at the venue during the day. With only a $5 ticket price it is affordable for a family to attend.
I was happy to discover that they had a mini carnival going on beside the racetrack where kids could go on rides, jump around in a bouncy house and play games to win a variety of prizes. Many of them lined up to get autographs from drivers and other racing celebrities.
Talking to some of the families who came, I quickly learned that for most of them it is a yearly tradition. The low cost makes it attractive and the kids always have a good time chilling on the grass and watching the horse races that go on all day.
Plus, while the kids are enjoying everything set up for them, parents can grab a drink or place a bet.
They even had a live band playing, but my suggestion for the event organizers next year is to get someone better. These guys couldn’t sing
Next summer if you are looking for an inexpensive and fun way to spend a day out of the house, The Hambletonian is always held on the first Saturday in August.
While I may not have been converted to a harness racing fan, I was impressed at how welcoming the community is to families at their biggest race.