Hamilton County Fair, McLeansboro, IL, July 11, 2002

Ellis Park, Henderson, KY, July 12, 2002

Fairmount Park, Collinsville, IL, July 13, 2002

River Downs, Cincinnati, OH, July 14, 2002

Arlington Park, Arlington Heights, IL, July 15, 2002

This entire story isn't quite written yet, but suffice it to say the main excuses for this trip were a visit to an Illinois county fair track and a meetup with some Internet correspondents at River Downs. It also involved the tragic first ever flat tire on a McChump outing. So that was fairly exciting.

I do have a short report on the fair, and pictures from the other tracks.

The McLeansboro fair itself was one that no one else wanted, with carnival rides no one ever heard of except maybe in 1956. They all looked that old and beat up, too, as did the carnies. Concessions were served from three small trailer type stands, and my choice was the giant tenderloin, which was this very large, thin, chicken-fried "thing". Yum. Some cows and stuff were in barns way, way on the other side. Didn't visit those.

The race track was small and non-descript, but at least no cars were parked in the infield. It was primarily notable for its dustiness. A small small "grandstand" which consisted of a concrete set of risers with a cheesy half-cover over it. Maybe 300 people were in attendance.

Never heard of most jockeys or horses, even at Fairmount. Lots of the jocks were riding in jeans. The announcer knew some of their names.

Getting the horses ready was always an adventure, with the announcer having to threaten the horsemen with a scratch if they didn't get out there. They got multiple warnings. Some never did get out there, and the race in question would just suddenly start up without them.

The big question all night was whether all the races would go off before the sun went down. When it was apparent that wasn't going to happen, and it was time for the big Hamilton County Derby (1-1/8 miles, which was like 11 turns, for a purse of $800) they had to turn on the lights.

This involved a very long stick, carefully poked up into the guts of the power grid, tripping some very large relays up by a nasty looking transformer and many high tension wires. The crowd seemed quite relieved the transformer did not explode.

The Derby ran, a horse won in a cloud of dust, and the night was over.

Pictures from the other tracks: