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Harness racing to expand to three nights

Despite a decline in recent decades of people drawn to county fairs by harness racing, there will be a huge surge in numbers of horses eligible to compete next year, fair board member Josh Miller said during the Wednesday night meeting.

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Jack Dailey drives Hanky L, a horse trained by Lewistown’s Herb LeVan and owned by Melissa LeVan of Woodstock, to a win in the fifth race July 9 at the 2014 Logan County Fair. The Logan County Fair Board voted Wednesday to add a third evening of harness racing to next year's exposition. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO | MATT HAMMOND)

That fact combined with fair board members’ disappointment that top-billed Christian concerts have been moved off the fairgrounds for the past two years, prompted the body to add Monday evening to the fair week racing card.

“This year we only had 394 eligible 2-year-old (horses) but that will increase to 1,000 next year,” Mr. Miller said. “In western Ohio, it seems to be very popular; they are getting full fields in all the colt races now.”

But while a majority of the fair board members approved adding the extra night, several voted against the measure.

Among those in opposition were Errol Snapp and Jay Ackley, both of whom said they believe a matinee race on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon would be a better option than tying up the grandstand on a night when some other entertainment could be booked.

In the past, harness racing took place on three nights, but a decline in both participants and spectators led to the reduction to two nights in recent years.

And while participation may be on the rise, the opponents of the change said they fear spectators may still be stagnant.

“It’s nothing personal, we’re just looking for something to bring people in the gates and make money for the fair,” Mr. Ackley said after the meeting.

Mr. Miller said there would be issues handling all the horses still on the fairgrounds for a matinee race while trying to accommodate the arrivals for the evening stakes race.

“If we ran a race from noon to 4 p.m., people like to get there early for the night race and we don’t have enough room for them all,” he said.

In other activity, the fair board gave Shawndel Wilson, an adviser for the 4-H Shooting Sports clubs, the nod to put together a proposal to bring the activity to the fair.

“We would like to have an area where we can set up to promote not only 4-H shooting sports, but safe gun-handling,” Mrs. Wilson said, noting that the Ohio State Fair and county fairs, such as Lucas County, already have facilities and policies in place to allow firearms and shooting sports on the premises.

Before giving the green light to explore the issue, fair board members questioned where it would be located, how it would be contained and how the insurance provider would view the issue.

The $4 cost of parking on the fairgrounds was also discussed, along with ways — such as canned goods discount night, a pay per carload night or a free until 3 p.m. promotion — to bolster attendance at the annual event. No action was taken on those issues.

The next meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 10.

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