A rare color picture of the Erie County Fair Strates Shows Midway, circa 1961.
First came the snow, which pushed opening day of racing back a few days….then came the sun, which melted the snow and flooded the track forcing yet another cancellation.
However, you know what they say “third time is a charm,” and the Buffalo Raceway is hoping that is the case as they prepare to officially celebrate opening day this Wednesday, January 15.
Post time is 5:00pm.
Guests receive a free magnet schedule.
January 9, 2014. Preparing to race at the Hamburg Oval, 1939. Erie County Fair. Harness racing has been a part of both the American fair and an Erie County Fair tradition since the early part of the 19th century. The popular rural past-time, using fairly unsophisticated carts and hole-riddled country roads as tracks, made way to the first dedicated tracks located at the various sites of the Erie County Fair including Cold Springs in Buffalo, South Buffalo near Mineral Springs Road, Springville and at our current home in Hamburg. The tradition of harness racing continues with Opening Night rescheduled for this Saturday with first post at 6:40pm
As the snow came, visibility diminished and WNY was thrown into deep freeze the Buffalo Raceway had to make the decision to cancel opening day of racing on January 8, 2014.
The polar vortex also spoiled the plans to conduct the draw for Friday’s race as well.
What this means is that you have more time to shovel out, bundle up and head out to Buffalo Raceway for opening day, which will now be Saturday January 11 at 6:40pm.
All promotions from Wednesday will be shifted to Saturday. All guests will receive a free program and race schedule magnet. Inside Track members will be able to redeem their coupons for a hockey puck as well.
Saturday evening racing is the perfect date night and there are still reservations available in the Clubhouse for the Winner’s Circle Café. Call 716-649-1280 ext. 300 to make yours.
The cancelled races will tentatively be rescheduled for Thursday January 23 and Thursday January 30, pending approval from the NYS Gaming Commission.
It may be early January in Western New York but things will be heating up at Buffalo Raceway on Wednesday, January 8th as the 99-day 2014 harness racing season opens up at the half-mile oval, located at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Hamburg.
Buffalo Raceway has reaped the benefits of early-season racing in recent years and Chief Operating Officer Jim Mango said the track needs to take advantage of it once again.
“We’ve had such good success the past few seasons with racing in January, February and March,” Mango said. “We are one of the few tracks who are still willing to race then…it gives us great exposure and brings in some good drivers and horses.”
Mango pointed out that Buffalo Raceway’s export signal attracted $10.3 million in handle in 2011 and $15.3 million in 2013.
“That’s a 50 percent growth since 2011,” Mango said. “Part of the success goes to the relationship we have with our guest sites, and getting us national outlets like Twin Spires and TVG.”
Mango went on to say, “The winter racing is well received by the horsemen and it gives drivers from the East some opportunities. We have had a pretty good driver’s colony here the first few months the past few seasons and I don’t see any reason that won’t happen again this year. There should be some fierce competition.”
Buffalo Raceway will race on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights in January. Post time is 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and 6:40 p.m. on Friday and Saturday evenings. In February and March, Thursdays will be added with 5 p.m start time.
“We’ve had reasonable success on Thursdays but we are starting it in February this year and hope to take advantage of a lull in racing across the country,” Mango said. “The 5 p.m. post time…there’s not much competition and we are trying to take advantage of it, and there seems to be plenty of horses to race.”
Mango went on to say, “Mickey Mantle will never hit another home run again and we know we’ll never attract the crowds like we did back in the 1960s. It’s just the reality. Horse racing is all simulcast-based now and we have to realize it.”
While Mango admits wagering on-line continues to grow, Buffalo Raceway will do some promotions to bring fans in. “We got sports giveaways this year…hockey pucks, baseballs, basketballs, footballs with our logo on it. We are trying to add a little fun for those coming out.”
The track continues to improve its backstretch and something that Mango is very extremely proud of. “There’s not anyone that isn’t impressed with our barns or state-of-the-art paddock. I will argue with anyone that we have the best backstretch in the country, thoroughbred or harness racing.”
“We’ve honored our commitment to New York State as a race track and gaming facility,” Mango said. “A lot of tracks across the country have ignored the stable area. We thought it a necessary improvement. I hear from horsemen daily who say they can’t wait to get back to Buffalo because of the back side.”
Buffalo Raceway has filled the more than 400 stalls on the grounds for 2014 and as Mango put it, “We could have easily filled over 600. That’s why we race as much in the winter as we have a lot of people who want to compete.”
Besides the impressive barns and paddock, the track has improved its track lighting this season which will only help the simulcast signal. With new graphics and cameras installed last season, Buffalo Raceway is ready to compete with the best in the country in distributing the best signal possible.
Mango added that the track is better than ever with more material put down and turns are properly banked. “It is a daunting task to keep the track in racing shape during the winter months in Western New York. I think that our track crew does a pretty good job.”
The fans will also notice a change in the race calls. Michael Carter takes over the announcer’s booth as previous caller Gabe Prewitt is now at Pompano Park in Florida.
Ray Fisher Jr. will return to defending his 2013 driving title at Buffalo Raceway. He was named “Driver of the Year” in Western New York after his second place finish in the standings at the recently completed Batavia Downs meet.
Drivers coming in for the first few months aren’t known yet, but it is expected that drivers from Saratoga and Vernon will once again compete. Mango said nothing is definite but has heard Shawn Gray may also ”pop in on weekends” to race. Also back will be perennial leading drivers Dave McNeight III, Kevin Cummings, Jack Flanigen, Ron Beback Jr. and Jim McNeight.
Expect the trainer’s battle to a good one as well with J.D. Perrin the reigning champion at Buffalo Raceway. John Mungillo took the title at Batavia Downs and should arrive with a powerful stable once again. Jim Graham and David McNeight Jr. are also top conditioners expected to arrive with strong stables.
On the wagering side, the highlight once again will be the $5,000 Guaranteed Pick-4 every Wednesday starting in the fifth race. The guaranteed pool is part of the United States Trotting Association’s Strategic Wagering Program. It is also co-sponsored by Buffalo Raceway and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association.
Mango said in closing, “I think the past few years our racing product and competition has improved. People have seen what we’ve had to offer and it’s helped us.”
Buffalo Raceway is located on The Fairgrounds in Hamburg, New York. Admission and parking are always free to the Raceway, for all ages. Reservations for live racing nights can be made by calling 716-649-1280 ext 300.
Seasonal harness racing takes place January through July Wednesday at 5:00 pm, Friday and Saturday at 6:40 pm. Simulcast wagering from across North America is available year round Wednesday through Sunday. For more information visit www.buffaloraceway.com or call (716) 649-1280.
January 2, 2014. Tailgating… Erie County Fair style. Away from the busy concessions and midway, this 1960s family gathers for a home packed parking lot picnic
Together we have made history, yet again and it was with the help of all of WNY (and beyond)!
It has already been announced that the Erie County Fair has the highest attendance in its history in 2013 with 1,160,184 guests passing through the gates. A couple of months ago the Food Bank of WNY announced the the Erie County Fair Food Drive was the largest held in their history with over 350,000 pounds of food donated in just twelve days. But the good news is still coming….
To mark the end of a record setting year for the Fair and to set the pace for the beginning of our 175th Anniversary year CarnivalWarehouse.com released their annual list of the Top 50 Fairs in North America and named the Erie County Fair as #11.
Eleventh is the highest the Erie County Fair has ever ranked on the list and is up 3 spots from #14 in 2012. With just 2.5 million people in the WNY area the Erie County Fair was able to surpass the state fairs of Ohio, Oklahoma, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, New York, Indiana, Mississippi, California, Kentucky, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland and New Mexico, to name a few. Click here to see the fill list.
It is because of the wonderful people of the 716 (and the 585) that the Erie County Fair has become such a major event within our community. Without the exhibitors, vendors, staff, judges, volunteers and of course the guests we wouldn’t be able to even dream of receiving such a high honor.
On behalf of all who are involved in the planning, organization and execution of the Erie County Fair, Thank You. We hope you enjoyed EXPERIENCING the 174th Fair with us and we are hoping you are ready to continue GROWING STRONG with us as we celebrate our 175th Anniversary in 2014.
December 26, 2013. Pictured here in 1979 is WKBW-TV’s Brian Kahle, then host of AM Buffalo, interviews the Statler Brothers (Lew DeWitt, Harold Reid, Don Reid, and Phil Balsley) prior to a performance at the Grandstand of the Erie County Fair. Kahle passed away this past May.
December 19, 2013. In December 1923, the Erie County Agricultural Society received a letter from Elmira, New York based James E. Strates soliciting the Fair’s business for his newly created Southern Tier Amusement Company. This simple letter, proudly displayed in our Fair Office to this day, was the beginning of a 90-year partnership between the Strates Family, the Erie County Fair and the people of Western New York. We look forward to our 90th season with Strates Shows during next year’s 175th Erie County Fair.
December 12, 2013. Following the close of the 1964/1965 World’s Fair in New York City (Flushing Meadows), the Erie County Fair purchased a number of the famous Greyhound Bus “Glide-A-Ride” tram sets for use in Hamburg. The futuristic design seemed to float around the Fairgrounds from 1966 until the trackless trains were retired in the early 2000s.