Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Morning, Already Looking Back at the Sonoma County Fair: World's Winningest Jokey Does Not Let Me Down

It's been many many years since my race track days, betting two bucks to show on the horse with the best odds. This year, the jockey you see lured me back.

The betting bug hit me when I read about the winningest jokey of all time, Russell Baze, who regularly rides at Santa Rosa. Last year at this very track, he won his 11,000th victory.

I found a real live cashier -- what a reassuring pleasure. I longed for an authentic experience, thank you, and made my daring return bet: two dollars to show on number 2 in the second race.

Baze kept his horse (I forgot its name) in the third place position across the finish line. I was banking on a return of $2.20, which is what a similar bet in the first race had reaped.

But, Oh Happy Baze! My new favorite jockey paid me $2.40. In today's sinking economy, a 20% return is nothing to scoff at. Makes good horse sense to me.

Cashier guy told me "the casinos are killing us." It shows in the declining attendance.

This year marked the fair's 75th anniversary, and I'm now an official part of its history. In a special book they printed, they included a reminiscence of mine, originally posted here, about Foley & Burk Shows, the railroad carnival.

The Tilt-A-Whirl, a true classic, lives on!

Foley & Burk carried a rare reverse-direction merry-go-round.

I remember the dapper presence of carnival owner L. G. Chapman, especially when the show returned to Santa Rosa in the fall to winter quarter in the flower show building. He was there supervising the rumble of wagons into hibernation. Once when he spotted me standing next to my bike, watching, he said, "So you think you'd like to be a carnival man?" I nodded yes. He smiled.

Here is my contribution to "A History of the Sonoma County Fair" ...

There's an old ice house -- no, there was an old ice house down Sebastopol Road in Santa Rosa, on whose raised exterior walkway I once stood on enchanted summer days when a carnival train rattled into town and was spotted there. I watched transfixed as a wide array of multi-colored wagons of Foley & Burk Shows rumbled and clattered from flat car to flat car, muscled hands tugging at their tongues, pulling against ropes to guide them onto the runs, down which they bolted with wild force, hitting the pavement for sure, jerking this way or that, getting hooked to tractors and pulled out to the fairgrounds ... Sometimes on my bicycle, I anxiously followed them.


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