Montana State Fairgrounds, Great Falls, MT, July 22, 2018

Alert! Huge news this year: The grandstand is falling down.

That's right, just as soon as Great Falls Turf Club got ambitious and expanded their meet to 6 days after the success of 2017, the grandstand started falling part. Chunks of concrete were falling down from the underside of the seats, into the concourse space below where mutuel tellers and food vendors and Turf Club program vendors and bettors and customers wander about all day.

So the county closed the concourse under the stands, while declaring that the upper seating structure would be safe for the races and fair, but there would be no using that concourse. Which meant the loss of almost all the wagering windows. Not to mention the major shade area where people went to get some relief from the sun and heat of late July in Montana. Not to mention the main food concessions and the hard liquor bar.

The Turf Club did a heroic job of moving the mutuels main line off to the side in some temporary spaces made of shipping containers or something with a nice shaded space out front, but (in my personal estimation) it wreaked havoc on the wagering. It was a long way to the new windows from the grandstand seats, through some pretty congested aisles, and down and up some congested stairs. The lines in the new mutuels area were fierce plus of course people were just hanging around in there for shade. And there were wagering technical problems, particularly with the few self-serve machines scattered about. By mid-card on any day I saw lots pf people just sitting on their hands not betting - it was frustrating. I passed more races than usual myself, due to the hassle. On the positive side most of the tellers were pretty decent this yeat. But overall bad news for mutuel handle, is my guess.

The county announced they would be tearing down that grandstand and replacing it after the fair, so we shall see. My guess is an even more racing and wagering unfriendly structure. It's all about rodeo, dontcha know. Plus I'm thinkin' ... cheap.

But the racing was okay, and there were some good and cheesy attractions at the fair.