The Little Brown Jug harness race is more than a horse race for the thousands of people who fill the grandstand and line the fences for the annual event at the Delaware County Fair.

The Little Brown Jug harness race is more than a horse race for the thousands of people who fill the grandstand and line the fences for the annual event at the Delaware County Fair.

Old friendships are renewed and new friendships are made. Others see it as an excuse to hold a family reunion.

Others see "The Jug" as a networking opportunity, not necessarily to seal a deal but to help move a deal along, said Gus Comstock who was economic development director for the city of Delaware for 10 years and now holds the same position with the county.

"It gives you a chance to get to know people in a relaxed setting, not in a sterile government environment or in a situation where people feel pressured to make a decision," he said. "It's not so much what happens at The Jug or at lunch. It's the ease of making a decision after that, when everybody is more comfortable with each other because you've established a rapport and started to build a trusting relationship in a relaxed setting.

"It may sound simple, but a lot of my decisions are based on, 'Do I trust the person?'" Comstock said. In a setting like last week's races, he can see how people interact with others and who they associate with.

An event such as the fair allows city and county officials to show off Delaware County.

"Any event we have, whether it's the fair, the horse parade or the arts festival, is an opportunity to let other people know who we are in Delaware County and what we stand for in Delaware County," said county commission president Tommy Thompson. "Hopefully, they will like to be part of it. That is why we continue to do that networking and invite people here."

Thompson invited commissioners from the surroundings counties to be his guests at the Jug and Jugette races last week.

"Part of the reason was to do networking," he said. "We may find opportunities to partner with these counties in the future on projects that could save all of us money."

From an economic development perspective, invitations to events such as the fair are a way of introducing the county and what it has to offer to a company looking to relocate.

Most companies can locate anywhere, Comstock said. In a survey of top executives by the International Economic Development Council, the top two factors a company looks at when considering a move are education and recreation, he said.

"Basically, it comes down to what the schools look like and what recreational activities are available," Comstock said.

That is why Debbie Shatzer, executive director of the Delaware County Convention & Visitors Bureau, invited writers, editors and publishers from several regional publications to be her guest at last week's races.

"If they experience the race, they may be interested in writing about it for next year," she said. "The Little Brown Jug is this county's largest event, something Delaware is known for."

While the fair and the horse races were the focal point last week, the time between races was the perfect opportunity for her to talk up other county "jewels," such as the zoo, she said.

"If I can get someone to write something about our county and what we have to offer, it is better than taking out an ad," Shatzer said.