Cascade County commissioners OK’d an agreement Tuesday with the Great Falls Turf Club that will return horse racing to Montana ExpoPark in 2021.
“Thank you for looking ahead and planning ahead,” Commissioner Jane Weber told Turf Club members.
The 2020 Montana State Fair, including horse racing, was canceled due to COVID-19.
A COVID-19 vaccine may be availableby the time the 2021 fair comes around, said Weber, adding she was proud to make the motion OKing the agreement.
“Big deal,” Commission Chairman Jim Larson, who also voted yes, said of the agreement.
The agreement calls for the county contributing $65,000 toward about $180,000 in purses that are paid out during the five-day meet.
In 2019, races drew 10,000 fans over the five days with betting handles totaling around $450,000.
The dates are July 24-25, July 30-31 and Aug. 1. The final three dates will coincide with the 2021 Montana State Fair, which is July 30 through Aug. 7.
ExpoPark Director Susan Shannon said the agreement is the ninth between the county and the Turf Club to conduct the horse races.
Sparky Kottke of the Turf Club thanked commissioners for their support of horse racing and for recent improvements at ExpoPark, including the painting of the horse barns.
“It looks very good there,” Kottke said.
John Hayes of the Montana Board of Horse Racing told commissioners he was proud of what the community is doing for horse racing and praised the county and Turf Club for sitting down and working together.
“I watch around the state and that’s not exactly what’s going on in other areas,” Hayes said.
Commissioners also approved an agreement with Big Sky Pro Rodeo Roundup Committee for the Big Sky Pro Rodeo that occurs annually during the fair. The rodeo attracts more than 500 contestants and 6,500 fans.
The agreement spells out the roles of the county and the committee for operating the four-day rodeo.
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