Jeff Zidek, the noted multimedia journalist who serves as an 'information specialist' for the Pennsylvania Racing Commissions, has come up with a real winner in his latest project - mounting a small camera on the starting gate, and on the helmets of drivers, to give fans, seasoned and potential, an 'up close and personal' look at racing on a fair track, this one the near-circular track at Hughesville PA on July 21.
Starter Clarence Martin serves as the "narrator" for the segment where the camera is mounted on the gate, directing horsemen on and off the track, calling the field to the gate, watching that trailers are in the second tier, and then "giving the word" at a track that leaves a starter and his driver little room for error.
Roger Hammer, "King of the County Fairs" and approaching his fifth anniversary of Vivid Photo winning the Hambletonian, produced the longest segment, and it looks very typical of a Hammer day at the fair races: warming up one horse, going back to the barn, putting the race bike on another and going on the track, trying to direct the traffic flow, going wire-to-wire once the race does go, going back to his stable and putting the same bike on a horse in the next race, asking a groom to have a diet soda ready for him when he gets back, jawing with "the boys," going wire-to-wire again - and then, atypically, grabbing the soda and leaving the fairgrounds early (for a court date for, of all things, speeding).
Up-and-coming Bobby Rougeaux (nicknamed "C"MON BOBBY!" for the cries his cheering section of the Rocky Top Stables puts out at different points of the race) then took the Hammer-helmet-cam and wore it for a few races. Rougeaux had the best line of the day: "Hammer's helmet fit you?", another driver asked, to which Rougeaux, deadpan, replies, "Well, I had to shave a little bald spot up front..."
For Rougeaux's first race, Zidek figured that Rougeaux would set the pace and turned the camera 180 degrees, which meant you were seeing BEHIND Rougeaux during the race - a good angle, it turned out, because nobody caught him. The video ends with, camera turned "normally," Rougeaux going out for his next race.
Zidek deftly cuts in a few still pictures, such as the winners circle picture with the large Rocky Top contingent, and even cleverly places picture-in-picture footage from a "pan camera" angle into the tight-in helmet signal (if "pan camera" and "county fair" are not mutually-exclusive - they're not in Jeff's world), for a further widening of perspective.
Zidek has worked with the Commission for many years, and has been putting fair video on You Tube since 2008. This collection, however, seems to be the best one of all - check out these:
Action Cam: Part 1 - Starter Clarence Martin
Pennsylvania County Fair harness racing action, as seen from the starting gate car of Clarence Martin, Jr. Shot at the Lycoming County Fair in Hughesville, PA on July 21, 2010
Action Cam: Part 2 - Driver Roger Hammer
Pennsylvania County Fair harness racing action, as seen from the helmet cam of driver Roger Hammer. Shot at the Lycoming County Fair in Hughesville, PA on July 21, 2010
Action Cam: Part 3 - Driver Bobby Rougeaux
Pennsylvania County Fair harness racing action, as seen from the helmet cam of driver Bobby Rougeaux. Shot at the Lycoming County Fair in Hughesville, PA on July 21, 2010