Enthusiasm fuels County Fair Alliance
Monday, November 14, 2005 - Dean A. Hoffman
A wise old man once told Dave Schmidt, “Hard work ain’t easy.”
Schmidt recognizes the truth of that statement, but his hard work on behalf of the Country Fair Harness Racing Alliance is easy for him because he loves racing at the fairs so much.
“I grew up in Celina [Ohio] going to the Mercer County Fair and people in my family were involved in harness racing,” he says. “It bothered me to see fairs cutting racing dates and I hated to see that.”
Schmidt has been one of the driving forces behind the success of the Signature Series which has proven popular at Ohio fairs in the past six years. Schmidt won’t take credit for that success because he’s too interested in building upon it to promote the sport at its grassroots level.
The vehicle for that is called the County Fair Harness Racing Alliance (CFHRA) and one of its first goals is to promote an inter-state competition that could become the “Super Bowl of county fair racing.”
Schmidt and his colleagues envision the best two county fair horses from each state meeting in a prestigious final. Right now they’re thinking of asking the Delaware County Fair in Ohio to host the race because the Signature Series is already part of the racing card there.
A group of harness racing devotees from northwest Ohio decided to form the Signature Series. Schmidt credits Bob Geist, Jim Walter, Harold Breidenbach, Glenn Kuensli, and Gig Davis.
“They’re the real fathers of the Signature Series,” says Schmidt. “They didn’t just talk about doing something to help the fairs---they went out and did it.”
Schmidt signed on to do the website for the Signature Series and he describes himself as the “cheerleader” for racing at the fairs. He’s dismayed when he sees fairs dropping their harness racing programs and wants to stem that trend.
“Harness racing at the fairs has to take advantage of cable TV and the internet if it’s going to survive,” he says.
Schmidt has some experience in this area because he’s also working in motor sports to develop young racecar drivers and fans in the Grassroots Series.
“NASCAR has done a good job of promoting the Grassroots Series,” he says. “The county fairs are the grassroots of harness racing. There are some marketing opportunities for us. It will take a lot of hard work, but if we can get more states involved then we can market fair racing to big corporations.”
He’s not so wild-eyed that he sees million-dollar races at the fairs. Schmidt would like to see increased purses, but he knows that part of the charm of county fair racing has nothing to do with money.
“The Donald Trumps of harness racing probably won’t want to be involved in our efforts, but a lot of people still enjoy racing at the fairs,” he says.
Schmidt recently moved to Illinois and lives outside Chicago, and he’s already chatted with some folks involved in Illinois racing about breathing new life into the fairs in the Land of Lincoln. He exudes enthusiasm.
“Look at major league baseball,” Schmidt says. “They went back to having all their ballparks look like old ballparks with a nostalgic feel. We don’t have to do that at the fairs. We have county fairs that still have the historic look to them.”
He’s found receptive listeners in other states, young men such as Dan Roland in Iowa and Gabe Wand in Wisconsin. Schmidt is hoping to schedule a meeting of all fairs interested in promoting the sport and becoming part of the County Fair Harness Racing Alliance. Such a meeting might be held in conjunction with a Blooded-Horse Sale in Ohio.
Schmidt describes his role by saying, “My job is to make sure that all the tires on the County Fair Harness Racing Alliance bandwagon are inflated because I think a lot of people are going to start jumping on it. And that’s what we want---people hooting and hollering for harness racing at the fairs.”
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For more information on the County Fair Harness Racing Alliance, contact Dave Schmidt at 815-986-6581 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Courtesy of www.ustrotting.com
Direct link at: http://www.ustrotting.com/absolutenm/anmviewer.asp?a=12768&z=1