Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday, July 18th -- the last day

Anthony Downs. The Centennial was in 2004 --horse races for 100 years; dog races for 60. Add five more years --and that's probably the end of the line for these races.

If so, we're about to lose one of the most interesting customs in the state. And, obviously, it's a big economic boom for Anthony. Sunday, July 18 is the last day. Go if you can. Races start at 2 p.m. Horse and dog usually rotate. After the sixth race will be the Derby Hat Parade and judging.

The beauty of this is that it's a classic, like something you see in a movie. In these times of slick and fancy, Anthony Downs is the opposite and that makes it about as charming as can be. The little white stand is the admission gate with a number of reminders and two friendly women behind the screen taking your $4 admission fee.

It's the wooden stands that are most classic of all. Deep and sturdy though sometime a little splintery and creaky. Like the old, wooden baseball stadiums that are long gone this massive structure has survived, complete with poles that obstruct view. There is usually enough room to maneuver to the best view.

The seats are broad and roomy.

Everyone has their own betting plan -- or not. I didn't really know what I was doing but in one race I placed $2 bets on the 3 horse to win, place, or show. My rider fell off right out of the gate and though the riderless horse finished second, the bet is only good if the rider finishes with his horse.

On my second race the 7 horse got second and I won $9.40!

Dogs and horses alternate races.

The shorter greyhound track is in the middle of the horse oval. It's the neatest thing to watch both kinds of races and the duo events keep the action moving.

Today is supposedly the last day for this rich tradition. Beside the story of how the funding has dried up for Eureka and Anthony is the story of how this culture affects everyone from the jockeys to the organizations that sell food at these races to the people who have been coming to watch for years. Young kids run around and oldsters just camp in the stands. Staffers behind the betting window tell you good luck and it's clear that everyone has a good time.

Go to the races today, if you can, and "Get Kansas" in a way that will no longer be available.

KE #2 Marci Penner

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