For Canada’s 150th birthday, the Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society went all out to make meeting extra special.
MILLARVILLE, ALTA.— Kids and parents alike are draped over the paddock fence on the southeast side of the Millarville racetrack, scratch sheet in hand, pointing at their projected favourite in the first race.
The smell of barbecue and beer mixes with that of the earthen track and the sweet grass fields surrounding the rural southern Alberta facility, home to the annual Canada Day Millarville horse races.
This is the 112th Millarville Race Meet, first run in June 1905 as a means to settle a score over who had the fastest mount in the area. The races became so popular that in 1908 the mayor of nearby Okotoks declared race day a civic holiday.
For Canada’s 150th birthday, the Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society went all out; dashes of red and white adorn most of the area’s structures and the maple leaf waves in the breeze high atop the flag pole.
It’s been a summer hub for the community since its inception — an incredible effort of volunteers bringing the event to life for more than 5,000 people.
“People come out here because they know the races have been out here for so, so long,” said Lisa Lloyd, the society’s executive director. “We do the races one day a year: July 1.”
The grounds bring together a variety of different agricultural groups throughout the year, but it all leads up to the races and then a rodeo later in July.
Today the event draws guests from all over southern Alberta, including nearby Calgary, which is 30 kilometres to the northeast.
There’s something here for everyone. It’s a farmers’ market full of artisan wares; it’s a beer garden where friends swap stories over cold draft from a keg; it’s sack races and foot races for the kids; and, of course, the main event: the races.
Tanya Arnold and Jeff Dykslag came from Lethbridge to see this year’s event. Tanya’s been three times, but it’s Jeff’s first time. The kids didn’t want to sit at home, so Tanya, an avid race fan, trucked everyone up to Millarville.
“I love the community atmosphere,” said Tanya. “It’s so much busier than back home. There’s so much to do. “
It’s shortly before post time for the first race. Odds are changing with each bet and the lines at the parimutuel windows are long.
It’s post time for this Canada Day — the 112th running of the Millarville Races.