Fans say goodbye to Michigan harness racing track
Jackson – Thousands of harness racing fans flocked to a southern Michigan track to bid farewell before the 70-year-old raceway is demolished.
The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports the Jackson Harness Raceway celebrated its final hurrah Sunday by hosting a dozen horse races. The track has been closed for 10 years but reopened this weekend so community members could say goodbye ahead of the scheduled demolition.
Co-organizer Mike Way said up to 7,000 people attended the event honoring the track’s history in harness racing, which involves a horse pulling a two-wheeled cart and a driver.
“There were a lot of tears,” Way said. “If you didn’t believe there was a passion for harness racing, you learned it today.”
Way estimated that the event made between $6,000 and $7,000 in donations, which will go to the Jackson County 4-H youth development program.
Co-organizer Claudia Davidson called it a “bittersweet day.” Organizers hoped to use the event to show Michigan lawmakers that harness racing is worth saving.
“The general public, they’ll bet on if the sun comes up or not,” Davidson said. “They want to game. In order for us to get into the new modern era, we need to have alternative gaming.”
Brenda Friend, who worked as a teller at the raceway, fulfilled her dream of taking a lap around the track in a jog-cart Sunday.
“I wish this was still going on. This was a family thing,” Friend said. “The kids growing up now, they don’t know what they’re missing.”
In April, the Hazel Park Raceway closed after a 70-year run. A week later, it was announced that Northville Downs race track in Northville was sold to a housing developer. Track and harness simulcast wagering will continue through 2020 at the site, developers said. Swartz Creek Raceway closed in 2015.