Summer. The season when lingering daylight and warmer weather draw people outside to enjoy summer’s traditional events and amusements. Summer is in full swing at the offices of Rear Curtain and we wanted to share the season with stories.
Over the next several weeks we will be hosting summer-related stories from different photographers. Check back each week for a new story in our summer series.
Racing at the Fair
Along one side of the Alameda County Fairgrounds, beyond the carnival rides and the exhibition hall but before you get to the livestock pens, is the racetrack. From Thursday through Sunday for the few weeks of the run, your ticket to the fair gets you into the races for free. Some of the folks in the grandstand are stalwart fans of the sport. They study their racing forms and place their bets just like they would at Golden Gate Fields. Others enjoy the races as one more novelty of the fair. They are just there for fun, and maybe to sit in the shade of the bleachers for a while.
For a few months each summer, Golden Gate Fields racetrack closes so the horses and jockeys can travel the fair circuit. Pleasanton, home of the Alameda County Fair, is first on the schedule. It is thirty-five miles inland from the eastern edge of the San Francisco Bay, far from the fog that the athletes are used to. It’s hot. As the mercury climbs into the high 90s, jockeys gather in a sliver of shade in the paddock until it’s time to mount.
The races here matter just as much to a career; they just feel different. The air is heavy as the sweet scents of cotton candy mix with the more pungent aromas of animals and sweat. The afternoons begin with the hilarious mule races and are broken up with silly events for the kids. There is much less formality here. Less separation between the athletes and the spectators. As horses and riders pass by in the paddock, you can almost reach out and touch them.
But the excitement is infectious as the horses kick up clods of dirt in the rush to the finish line. Maybe your lucky number is in the money. Maybe not. There are no carnival barkers here urging you to play, no big stuffed animals to win, but it’s still a game of chance. Anything can happen when you’re racing at the fair.
You can find more of Dorothy Brown’s work here.