Humboldt goes for the horses

HUMBOLDT – Hooves flew rather than fireworks as the annual Independence Day harness horse races were held at the Humboldt County Fairgrounds Friday.

Hearing the clop of the horses trotting as they pulled carts and drivers around the track rather than the pop of firecrackers was nothing new. In fact, the fairgrounds are known throughout the Midwest harness racing circuit.

“Humboldt is known as one of the best places to race,” said Royal Roland, president of the Iowa Harness Horseman’s Association. “It’s kind of a tradition for our association to race here on the Fourth of July. It’s a tradition from as far back as I can recall.”

Harness horsemen come to Humboldt to compete because of the good purses, the facilities and the treatment they receive from the Fair Council and the fans, he said. In fact, the competitors there Friday came not only from all over Iowa, but also from Colorado, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Texas.

While the standardbred horses fuel up on hay and grain before hitting the track, their drivers, trainers, owners and the race spectators all line up at the concession stand under the grandstand for their feed. Barbecue beef sandwiches, nachos, grilled tenderloins, hot dogs, brats, ice cream and soda are all on the menu, and serving that menu are the volunteers with the Humboldt Noon Kiwanis Club.

“Every time there’s a race, we’re here to feed everyone,” said Nick Kramer, a member of Kiwanis. “What’s nice is that the proceeds all go back to the community. So the more brats and hot dogs people eat, the more funds we raise for our service projects.”

Christmasland is perhaps be best known project funded by the civic group, but the group also supports Brownie Scouts; Cub Scouts; athletic, academic and music boosters; the summer reading program and the youth sports and recreation department.

The grilled tenderloin is the most popular item ordered at the concession stand, Kramer said.

That and popcorn.

“Popcorn from the fair grandstand is always a pretty good thing,” he said.

The nachos aren’t bad either. That’s what Jan Terwilliger, of Eagle Grove, snagged before she and her husband, who grew up in Humboldt, sought out a place from which to watch the races.

“We come every year,” she said. “Our whole family comes up and we spend the day together. It’s our tradition.”

It’s pretty much a birthright for teenager Brianna Jenson, of Bode. She said she has spent nearly every Fourth of July since she was born in Humboldt for the races. A competitor, Jenson usually drives her family’s horses in a heat or two, then enjoys the rest of the day’s events.

“We go to the parade. Then, once it’s done, we sit on top of the horse trailer and watch the fireworks,” she said.

She said she wouldn’t go anywhere else or do anything else for the Fourth of July.