Devil’s Bowl, Fair Haven, Vermont is one of the biggest and most well-known race tracks in North America. Founded in 1875, the track is the oldest continually operating Thoroughbred racetrack in America. Every year, the track hosts the Thoroughbred Racing Association’s Fall Classic – the first, and arguably the most prestigious, autumn sport-related event in North America. The track also hosts two other big events throughout the year; the Apple Blossom Festival in April and the Rutland Fair in August.
How Does The Track Stack Up?
Devil’s Bowl currently has a Grade II handicap on the dirt track and a Grade III event on the straight course. The racing season runs from mid-October to mid-April, but the track closes in October and doesn’t open for the racing season until April. Depending on the snow, ice, and/or rain, the track might not open until June.
The track is approximately 3.7 miles long, with approximately 136 turns. The track’s surface is dirt, and it has a banking of approximately 200 feet. Currently, 8 horses run on the track at any given time. There is no exact figure for the track’s capacity, but there are around 10,000 seats in the grandstand and up to 40,000 people in the paddock area. That means the track can hold around 20,000 to 25,000 people. In addition to the race track, there is also an outdoor concert stage and an indoor arena. The facilities all together are classified as an indoor outdoor complex.
The Course Is Sturdily Built, But Needs Some TLC
The track’s surface is dirt, which makes it easy for cars, trucks, and other vehicles to navigate around the track. Even bicycles can be ridden around the track safely. The track is also equipped with rumble strips, which provide additional traction for drivers. Despite all of this, the track has clearly seen better days.
The good thing is that the track’s owner, Frank Stronach, is a pretty hands-on guy and has been upgrading the track’s infrastructure since the early 2000s. The bad thing is that he’s only a guy, and he’s running out of money. According to the New York Times, the track had a mortgage of $18 million in 2012. Since the early 2000s, the track’s debt has more than doubled, going from $6.5 million to $14.7 million. And it seems like the bills keep coming in. In 2014, the track had to close down for two weeks due to heavy flooding. In addition to the flood damage, the track was also hit with a heavy ice storm. Still, despite its challenges, the track remains one of the biggest and most exciting venues in North America. It will be interesting to see how Stronach pays for all of this.
The Track’s History Is Rich, But It Hasn’t All Been Positives
According to the track’s website, the history of Devil’s Bowl began in 1875, when Ephraim Gage opened his horse farm in Fair Haven. At the time, the area was part of Lyman Province and situated along the Canada–US border. Gage bred and sold quality Thoroughbreds and was well-respected in the horse industry. In 1887, Gage’s grandson – Thomas – established the Thoroughbred Racing Association and began holding purses and awarding points for wins.
Over the years, the track gained fame for its big events and high stakes racing. In 1914, a devastating flood destroyed the track’s facilities. But Gage and his family were undeterred, and they began rebuilding. In the 1970s, the track was modernized and returned to its original configuration. In 1980, the Rutland Herald described it as follows:
“The most significant change was a new track surface, a mixture of crushed limestone and cinders that make for safe and fast racing. The track was widened, and a large grandstand was built, which can hold 4,000 to 5,000 people. Other additions to the track include a clubhouse, which houses the administration offices, the track kitchen, and the track store. The clubhouse connects to the indoor arena by way of an outdoor walkway.”
Despite all of this, the track’s reputation took a hit after the Binondo horse stampede in 2008. On December 6th of that year, an unruly mob of around 150 Binondo stallions broke through a fence and started charging toward the grandstand. Several people were trampled to death and over 100 others were injured. The police were able to contain the horses and the situation was subsequently brought under control. The track faced criticism for not doing enough to prevent the outbreak of violence and for not taking proper security measures. Since then, the track has taken several precautionary measures, such as increasing the number of police officers and surveillance cameras.
Why Is The Track So Famous?
Well, to start with, there are simply more people interested in horse-riding and horse-related activities in general than there are in auto racing. Second, the track is located in New England, one of the most horse-friendly regions in the country. Third, and most significantly, is that the track is among the biggest and most prestigious racing venues in North America. It will be no exaggeration to say that the average spectator at a New York City horse race will be more interested in what’s happening at Devil’s Bowl than what’s happening at any other North American track. That’s probably why the New York Times referred to it as “The Mecca of North American Horse Racing”.
Although it is clear that the track’s infrastructure is aging, it seems that the interest in horse racing hasn’t diminished. In fact, according to Forbes, there are now around 150 millionaires in the United States who were either born or raised in Canada. These 150 individuals collectively have a net worth of over $30 billion. But even if you’re not rich, it’s still a lucrative industry. According to the Washington Post, the horse racing industry is one of the most popular sports-related industries in America, and it’s grown rapidly in popularity over the past decade. In 2010, there were 33,000 horse racing fans in Maryland alone, and there were similar figures in the other states where the sport is legal. The industry is a multi-billion dollar one, and it’s still growing.
What Are The Grandstand And The Indoor Arena At?
The grandstand is located on the outside of the track and has a capacity of 15,000 to 20,000 depending on the size of the race. Since the seating is terraced, it provides fans with an unparalleled view of the entire race track. The indoor arena is attached to the grandstand and has a capacity of 3,500 to 5,000. The arena is used for concerts and other entertainment events. The New York Times described the experience this way:
“The best thing about the indoor arena is that it’s climate-controlled. While the weather outside is frightful, the inside of the arena is always cool and pleasant. It’s a great place to catch a game or a show.”
In addition to the indoor and outdoor arenas, the track also has a museum, which is open to the public. The museum focuses on the sport’s history and has a collection of memorabilia from previous racetracks – including those from Gage’s original farm in 1875. To see the full story behind the track’s establishment, visit its website. While you’re there, be sure to read about its infamous flood of 2008 and the resulting controversies.
How Big Is Rutland Fair And Apple Blossom Festival?
Rutland Fair is an agricultural show that takes place annually in Rutland, Vermont. Started back in 1882, the fair features over 125 exhibitors and draws around 20,000 visitors per day during the week-long event. The main reason for the annual fair is to showcase the latest in agriculture and dairy products. It also includes a livestock auction, a children’s carnival, and several other attractions. Even if you’re not an agricultural buff, the fair is still pretty exciting. It features dozens of local, regional, and national agricultural organizations, as well as representatives of animal welfare groups. Plus, there are always plenty of family-friendly events, including a demolition derby, a 4-H club day, and a strawberry festival. Apple Blossom Festival is an annual event that features hundreds of orchards and farmers markets across New England. The event started in the early 1900s and is dedicated to showcasing the best of local produce, especially apples. For more information, visit rutlandfair.com and appleblossomfestival.com