Focused on Mississippi: Harness racing at the Neshoba County Fair

Focused on Mississippi

NESHOBA COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – The Neshoba County Fair kicked off on Friday. Things happen at the fair that don’t happen at any other place, including harness racing.

If you own one of the cabins along the racetrack at the Neshoba County Fair, you are sure to be very popular almost every afternoon after the Call to the Post is sounded.

“It’s pretty awesome. I mean the whole family comes over. We’ve got five different family cabins across the fairgrounds. So this is kind of the center of convergence during the race,” said Gavin Lee. He’s staying at one of the cabins near the track.

“The track was built in 1914. Harness racing was licensed in 1924,” explained Gilbert Donald with the Neshoba County Fair.

With Mississippi not being a big horse racing state, I figured it might be helpful to have someone explain what harness racing is all about. The trick is how the horses run. It’s not an all-out dash for the finish line, but there is some finesse that must be met. 

“There are two prescribed gates in harness racing. Pacing, both the legs on each side move in unison, and trotters, it’s diametrical. Left front and right rear move in synchronization,” stated Mike Tanner, CEO of the U.S. Trotting Association.

The race here at the Neshoba County Fair isn’t in the class of the Kentucky Derby or anything, but it is well known.

“I’ll tell you. It has the reputation within the harness industry of being one of the most fun events that you could go to, and I’ve been at the U.S.T.A. for ten years now, and I’ve been told by people that I had to get down here and have been invited by the organizers and finally the schedule permits. Come down and it kind of harkens back to harness racing the way it used to be when it was a local or regional sport before it became an industry. We’ve already made friends at a bunch of the cabins. We’ve been invited down for next year and my wife tells me we are coming, and we’re coming for more than three days,” said Tanner.

Harness racing goes on almost the entire run of the fair. It started Sunday afternoon.

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