In 2013, Truro Raceway appeared set to shut its doors for good due to a lack of funding. There are varying opinions both within the racing community and outside as to who was at fault for this turmoil.
Politics? Ignorance? Inability to change? Perhaps it was all three and everyone was to blame. Regardless of the finger pointing, a group of volunteers came together in a united force to keep this long standing pillar thriving.
Robyn Crowe, Christina Gillis, Penny Wesley, and Cindy Christie all shared a deep passion for harness racing. All four have deep roots within the province and in horse racing. Horse racing was not just a day event at Truro Raceway, it was tradition, family, memories, and life.
Three words in my opinion that best describe their passion: Past... Present... Future.
With the passion of all four united to see Truro thrive, Robyn, Christina, Penny and Cindy set out to bring the old fans back to the track as well as draw in a new generation of fans.
"One thing that our group is focusing on is bringing new people to the races." Robyn says. "During Atlantic Grand Circuit Week last year we had over 150 people we brought in though targeting businesses to bring in their staff for a night out. This year, we are offering the same promotion, and are reaching out to anyone to bring a group of new people to the races." Robyn explains.
"I also think that if we can get back to having bigger races and draw more outside horses and people, we could help the tourism industry and local businesses as well" says Robyn.
Robyn is married to horseman Darren Crowe. Robyn notes "I also looked at Darren and how it would impact him. Harness racing is his full time job, however it is much more than that. It truly is his passion. It never once crossed my mind about him not having a business because Darren is a hard worker and capable of doing anything. But it certainly crossed my mind about how he would feel when what he has worked hard at for 20 years is gone. So that is why I stepped up to help in any way I could, and why I continue to do so. As for how many hours we put in....basically it is a second full time job. The members of our committee and those who offer to help us out when they can truly have dedication to this and want to see things move in the right direction."
Cindy Christie works full time as a hair stylist and runs her own salon. Her late father was a dedicated owner and trained his own horses. Cindy's father instilled his love for harness racing in his three girls who he raised practically on his own as their mother passed away. Cindy has been a long time volunteer and is always willing to step up and help out.
Penny Wesley works fulltime as a Parole Officer and owns horses. Penny's reason for volunteering, "...my number one passion is harness racing. My great grandfather, (Bill Greene) had horses and it has filtered down through (the family). The people you meet in this sport are the most generous people you will ever meet. Although gambling has moved to other venues such as casinos and VLT's I still believe if promoted in the right way, we can draw people back to the tracks."
Penny continues, "The one thing I am looking to get out of this is to be able to show people the overall experience of being at the racetrack, from the behind the scenes work, to the betting window and the race on the track, as going to a racetrack can be a family event or a night out after a long work week. It is one place where you will meet any type of individual with something in common with each other and that is a love for horses."
Christina Gillis, an early childhood educator, adds the same level of passion and history to her reason to volunteer. "Basically, I feel as though volunteering at Truro Raceway is important because the track has always been a big role in my life. I do not recall ever not having a race horse."
"Harness racing is a big staple on both sides of my family and it is something that we enjoy doing together." Christina explains, "Everyone at our track is somehow like family to me, and I know how important this lifestyle is to people. My sister and I have both been around the horses since we could walk and I feel as though we learned a lot of life's lessons there. If the track had of closed last year like it was supposed to, it would really leave a hole in our lives, as it would to so many of our family friends."
"The closure notice we received last summer was a big eye opener and we all banded together and we made a difference." Christina states. "This reflects back on everyone's attitude. I personally found that the atmosphere has changed immensely the past year. It's gone from negative to more upbeat and positive. Of course there will always be fine tuning and work for improvement but to see us as a track and track family still racing every week makes me happy. To know that I have helped in making (Truro Raceway) turn around makes me proud. The other three girls and I work our butts off but at the end of the day, without everyone's help as a whole, we wouldn't be able to do what we do."
These volunteers demonstrate to any and everyone, if there's a will, there is a way. In life there will always be obstacles, but if you love something and cherish it, that obstacle will only become a hurdle.
By: Roderick Balgobin www.supernovasportsclub.com