Hear that sound? It’s hoofbeats in the distance!
That can only mean one thing – the steeds are rumbling towards Grande Prairie in preparation for The Horses At Evergreen Park.
You can get your bet on, watching live pari-mutuel racing, starting Saturday, July 7. The Horses go every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday, August 26. Post time for Friday and Saturday is 6:30 p.m. until Friday, August 17 when it switches to 6 p.m. All Sundays are at 1 p.m.
Horse racing in the area is a tradition that dates back to 1911 when the first “official” competition was held in downtown Grande Prairie going from 101 Ave. and 101 St. down to Bear Creek and back.
The photo to the right was taken almost 100 years ago – on July 1, 1918.
There were plenty of official, and unofficial, races at county fairs and other events leading into the second half of the 20th century when pari-mutuel racing became officially official at the County Fairgrounds on the east side of the city.
For over 35 years pari-mutuel racing has been a fixture at Evergreen Park and has come a long way since that first “official” race on that dusty downtown road.
Today, jockeys bolt out of a fancy starting gate (replacing a flag that signalled the start of races back in the day) and roar past a grandstand that holds almost 3,000 people looking for a share of a purse for their owner that can reach over $50,000. Bettors, who place their bets electronically as well as with a real person at a wicket, can watch in ecstasy, or agony, the last race on replay screens under the Gordon Badger Stadium.
A lot has changed about the sport, but a lot hasn’t. A combination of good horse and a good jockey is usually a good bet for a financial return and support of the public and sponsors is very, very important.
“We have been able to increase our attendance annually over the last few years,” says Evergreen Park Marketing & Sponsorship Manager Don Moon. “It’s a great place to bring the family and enjoy an evening or afternoon on a warm summer day. The fact there is no admission charge, and we have a fun play area for the kids, is certainly appealing. There are not many places you can go today and be entertained for free.”
Financial support from the community is also important.
“Sponsorship is critical to ensuring racing fans in the Grande Prairie area can enjoy live pari-mutuel racing every summer,” said Moon. “We don’t charge admission so there is no revenue stream there. We have to rely on other sources and sponsors are part of that.”
The Horses At Evergreen Park offers a variety of options for companies, or individuals, interested in supporting The Sport Of Kings. Click on The Horses At Evergreen Park to the left to view complete sponsor opportunities information.
It starts with a $20,000 title sponsorship.
“Naming rights for the race season gives a company a lot of exposure in the Peace Country. The company logo would be everywhere – banners, posters, website, promotional screens, newspaper ads and more – and it also includes naming rights to a race day in July and another in August including the VIP tent.”
Naming rights to the Grande Prairie Derby (July 22) and the Peace Country Derby (July 29) are also available.
Every race day the VIP Experience – which includes a tent to entertain staff or clients, or both – is a popular sponsorship.
The Kids Zone, one of the busiest spots at the races, is also up for naming rights.
“One of my favorites is the tote board sponsorship,” said Moon. “There is no spot on site that gets more attention before and after every race.”
There is also a radio reports sponsorship, value of $8,000 but only $2,500 to the sponsor, as well as banners, PA announcements and program ads available.
“All of these sponsorships help keep the sport viable in the Peace Country,” said Moon, “whether it is towards purse money or improving the facility for racing.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring the race program can contact Moon at 587-298-0548.