In its 68th year, Thursday’s Little Brown Jug drew tens of thousands of harness-racing aficionados and resident revelers alike – all of whom look forward to the event each year.
For many of those spectators, it’s clear that where they watch the races has become just as much of a tradition as the race itself.
Barbara Welker inherited her box seats directly in front of the finish line. She said she can’t recall how long she has had claim to the seats, but she remembers attending the Jug in its first year. She said all the attendees received a small jug as a souvenir.
“I missed a few years when my kids were young, but we’ve been here every year since then,” said Welker, who attended the race Thursday, Sept. 19, with her daughter, son and daughter-in-law and three granddaughters.
The Welker family was able to acquire such prime seating because Barbara’s late husband, Frank, was a longtime member of the fair board and the Little Brown Jug Society. Her son, Rex, is carrying on the tradition as a society director.
“You don’t miss much from here,” Welker said, pointing to the track. “You can really see the whole crowd and that’s good for us because we like to do people-watching throughout the day.”
Bob Lethbridge only sees the track from his seats, which are right up against the fence at the corner of the track’s three-quarter-mile pole.
He has been making the five-hour drive from his home in Fingal, Ontario, Canada, for almost two decades to see in person his country’s horses and drivers – which he can typically only catch on simulcast.
For the last three years, he and Stan Lidster have arrived at the track by 9 a.m. to get what they consider the best seats in the house.
“This is where the biggest movement is at the end of the race,” Lethbridge said. “The three-quarter mark is where all the action is.
“Some people like to see the finish line, but this is really where you can begin to see who’s going to win,” Lidster said.
For Columbus residents Rose Pusecker and Rich Berendt, the seats they’ve staked out for more than a decade are all about convenience.
Although they purchase grandstand seats, they can be found underneath the stands with folding chairs pulled up to a television showing the race.
“We can see the race, we’re next to the beer stand, the ticket stand, the bathroom – pretty much everything we’d need,” Berendt said. “We’ve pretty much been able to earn squatting rights at this point.”
Tom and Sue Smith have attended the Jug with friends and fellow Delaware residents for the last six years. That doesn’t mean they’ve actually seen the races, though. Instead, the couple and their group of friends set up tents, tables and lots of food and drinks just outside the gates.
On Jugette Day, they celebrate with Bloody Marys and Jug Day gets started with mimosas.
“I’d say this is one of the best ways to be at the races because if you’re tired of the race, you can come out here, get something to eat and drink and just relax,” Tom Smith said. “It’s nice and just makes it a really fun day.”
Whether spectators watched the race from a lawn chair on the backstretch or a box seat in the grandstands, all had one thing in common at the end: They were surrounded by wager tickets. The white paper squares were scattered throughout the grounds at the race track.
None of the aforementioned Jug attendees could report big winnings, but favorite Vegas Vacation, the horse that won the 2013 Little Brown Jug, will take home anywhere from 45 percent to 55 percent of a $552,551 purse. Vegas Vacation finished the race in 1:50.
This is the second consecutive year that Canadian trainer Casie Coleman earned a victory. It was a first for driver Brian Sears.
Urbanite Hanover and driver Yannick Gingras placed second. Lucan Hanover and driver David Miller, a Columbus native, took third.