The gates will close on the 2017 The Horses At Evergreen Park on Sunday and it should be colorful farewell to one of the most successful seasons ever.
Mr. Mike’s Paint The Park Purple – Race For The cure is the feature event to finish the two months of pari-mutuel racing at Gordon Badger Stadium at the Park.
“Paint The Park Purple is a great way to close out our season – by giving back to the community,” said Evergreen Park marketing and sponsorship manager Don Moon.
Post time Sunday is 1 p.m. and admission is free. The weekend also includes racing Friday and Saturday with 6 p.m. post times.
The popular Frisbee Toss will officially end the season. It is being held after the final race on Sunday.
Frisbees, at $5 each, will be sold throughout the day and then tossed at a purple tractor tire placed on the track in front of the grandstand. Winner receives a $1,000 voucher and two Edmonton Oilers tickets compliments of Marlin Travel.
There is also a silent auction and among the items is purple jewelry from Curry’s Jewelers and a purple, signed Marcell Dionne Los Angeles Kings jersey.
There is also a 50-50 being held and a purple drink will be sold as part of the fundraiser with proceeds going towards research for a cure for pancreatic cancer.
“Pancreatic cancer has affected a lot of people in our community,” said Moon.
“Including the family of Mr. Mike’s owner Brad Richards. We are so appreciative that Brad and Mr. Mike’s have put their support behind this community effort.”
The weekend, especially Sunday’s event, normally sees sizeable crowds – something The Horses At Evergreen Park has experienced often this year.
“We had a great opening day crowd back on July 8 and Derby Day was one of the largest crowds in a couple of years on July 30,” said Moon.
That trend continued for much of the year which, in turn, helped the bottom line.
“We have had a huge increase in handle this year,” said Pat Hill, racing manager, of the upturn in money spent at the betting booths in comparison to 2016.
The Park also added some “memorial” benches in front of the grandstand this year.
“There was great enthusiasm for Memorial Weekend and for the wooden benches created in memory of those who had been a part of the Park for many years,” said Hill.
The Horses also saw an increase in numbers of races per night, many with the full eight horses in each race.
“The horse population was about 350 head,” said Hill.
The economic impact of horse racing on Grande Prairie is estimated to be more than $2 million for the summer.
“You have 350 horses that need feed, vets and other care for two months and then around 200 – jockeys, owners, trainers, groomers, etc. – who move to the area for the summer and it adds up to a lot of money spent in this area.”
Moon said there has also been an uptick in people from outside the area taking in racing.
“A dozen people rented a bus and drove up from Wetaskiwin for the Alberta Derby at Evergreen Park. They spent three days here. Every weekend we see people from Dawson Creek, Peace River and others from outside the immediate Grande Prairie area.”
One of the visitors this weekend will be Denis Blake from Amarillo, Texas. He is from Wrangler Racing Aces representing quarter horses and, among other things, will be teaching people how to bet.
Also new this year was the Evergreen Park Racing Club 2017.
The Club has over 100 members who each put in $250. Club manager Norm Tremblay purchased three horses – Red N Black Attack, Xtreme Spell and Dman Doughty – for the Club and they raced over the summer picking up a couple of wins.
“It was nice to see the club get into the winner’s circle photos,” said Moon. “Whenever the club horses ran there was a good following of members in attendance. The hope is to keep that excitement going from September to June by having some events at the Pines Restaurant and Casino, which offers off-track betting.”
The race secretary will be setting conditions for the weekend in the next couple of days and Tremblay is hoping at least two of the three club horses will be able to race this weekend.
After The Horses At Evergreen Park end many of the horses will be loaded and taken to Lethbridge where racing continues into September and October.