May 27, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 02  

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SPORTS

The Western Fair: not just for chronic gamblers

By Ian Van Den Hurk
Gazette Staff

Gazette File Photo
IF I DON’T WIN THIS RACE, I’LL END UP IN THE GLUE FACTORY. Students looking to gamble away their tuition might want to try the Western Fair racetrack.

Students in London looking for a new and entertaining experience to occupy their weekend might want to consider the raceway at the Western Fair.

Though the track is traditionally frequented by older customers, university students should not be afraid to test the waters. The Western Fair offers a variety of opportunities, including slots, a restaurant and the horse races.

Last Saturday, Fanshawe College student Rhian Griffith and University of Waterloo student Sarah Baldwin were attending the races for the first time, and both were excited to be there.

Griffith said she had wanted to visit the facilities for a while and had heard about the races through word of mouth. She reasoned that since she was not vacationing, the races would be a fun opportunity to help fill in her long weekend.

Both ladies received generous treatment from track officials, exemplifying the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the raceway.

“We just went to ask how we go about [betting on horses] and we were given the grand tour,” Baldwin said. “This is the friendliest place I’ve been in a long while.” In fact, both Griffith and Baldwin were offered the opportunity to take a lap in the pace car used to start the races.

When considering a visit to the races, the pair stand as an example of the fact that university-age students should not be discouraged, even if they are living within a tight budget. There is no cost for admission to the track and bets can be placed on a horse for as low as two dollars, which makes for a night that’s less expensive than going to a bar. Many people even attend the races simply to watch, though betting a few dollars on a horse certainly adds some flair to the experience.

Those lacking knowledge about horse racing should also not be dissuaded. Pamphlets regarding how to choose horses are available for beginners, though Griffith and Baldwin used their own method by simply picking based on a horse’s name.

Rick Felix has been associated with horse racing and the Western Fair for more than 30 years. While he admits that he does not see a lot of university students at the track, he believes the raceway provides a social atmosphere that would be enjoyable for a large group of friends. “It’s a situation where I know you, and you know somebody, so everyone comes to the track [together],” Felix commented.

The track restaurant Top of the Fair provides a unique opportunity for friends to have a drink or meal or for a couple on a date. “It’s a nice place [to] take your lady friend. It’s very scenic,” Felix said with a laugh. The restaurant offers a great view of the track and each table is also accompanied by a television, ensuring that a couple or a group of friends will not miss any of the action.

Aaron Waxman, a 2001 Western economics graduate, has been interested in horse racing ever since he was a toddler. Waxman encourages students to check out the races to experience something different outside the typical student night life.

“It’s a change of pace — a different thing to do other than study or go to bars,” he said. “You get a better value for your money versus going to a hockey or baseball game and spending a hundred dollars,” he added, noting that it is even possible to make money at the track.

The Western Fair holds horse races every Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Interested parties can find more details at www.westernfair.com.

 

 

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