COLUMN: Weather affects fair sports differently

Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     One of the saddest moments of the Great Jones County Fair over my years here has been when mid-week storms come through, and it is announced on Thursday morning that harness racing – for my money the best part of the fair – is cancelled.

     That has happened the past two years. In fact, out of all the sports events scheduled each year at the fair, harness racing and auto racing have been the hardest hit events by weather in the past 15 years, not including this year.

     I know, because I researched it. During some post-fair down time last summer, I decided to look up fair results from those years to see how many times each event has been called off.

     Auto racing has actually been the most affected sports event, percentage-wise, over that time. Out of 17 scheduled programs (there were two scheduled in both 2010 and 2011), only 10 were held (58.8 percent). There was a three-year streak – 2008 through 2010 – where it wasn’t held at all.

     Harness racing used to be run for two days at the fair (those were the glory years), on Thursdays and Fridays. So over the 15 years I researched, there were 22 possible racing cards. Of those, 13 were actually held (59.1 percent).

     Other fair sports have fared much better. Both the demolition derby and the Wednesday evening NTPA truck/tractor pulls have been able to run 13 of those 15 years (86.7 percent). Heading into this year (and I hope I’m not jinxing things here), the demo derby has been run for seven straight years. The evening truck/tractor pull had a streak of nine straight years broken by last year’s storms.

     The Tuesday night motocross, which began in 2005, has run 11 of 13 years (84.6 percent). Last year, the event began but was cut short, so at least some of the motocross races have been held for eight straight years.

     And the Wednesday afternoon ECIPA tractor pull has successfully run in five of the past six years since its 2012 inception (83.3 percent).

     Like many, I believe there have been more severe weather events in recent years than there used to be. But my fair research doesn’t quite bear that out. In fact, the fair had a run of four consecutive years  – 2012 through 2015 – in which every scheduled sports event was held. That’s 24 events conducted (six per year) without a hitch.

     However, in the past two years, only six of 12 have been run. Last year, only the demo derby and the ECIPA tractor pull were conducted in full.

     No doubt, organizers are hoping for better weather results this year.



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