SHAKOPEE, Minn. — One animal lost a hoof. Another refused to stop smiling. One race participant at Canterbury Park on Sunday was reluctant to even approach the starting gates.
Thankfully, these weren’t the purebred steeds the horseracing superplex hosts on a regular basis. Bringing in area mascots for an annual footrace and other events epitomizes the other main facet of Canterbury’s mission, aside from providing premium equine competition.
Family fun is a staple of every Sunday at the race track, where pony rides, face painting, a petting zoo and a giant playground are available for children’s use. But when Mascot Day rolls around, there’s a little extra incentive for parents to bring along the next generation of racing aficionados.
“It’s all about trying to draw people out here,” track president and CEO Randy Sampson said. “It seems crazy, and when we actually started the Sunday family day stuff with the pony rides, you know, it was about 18 years ago. I said we’ve got to try to build the future fans. Most people, when you talk to them, the first time they came out was as a kid with grandpa or with their dad or whatever.”
Ideas like having a dozen mascots or ostriches and zebras race have allowed Canterbury to find a financially and socially viable niche in the horseracing world.
Thanks in large part to such efforts, the track is on pace to break its all-time season attendance record set last year. On-track revenues are up about five percent, and the business success has allowed the Sampson family to attract better horses and higher purses. That’s led to a near-30-percent uptick in off-site, simulcast profit.
Spikes in attendance and building the future of its fandom are two huge, related foundational pillars in sustaining that viability.
“This year is really positive,” said Sampson, whose family resurrected the once-defunct track in 1994. “It’s been good all along as far as getting people out; not a lot of betting, but we do great on the food and beverage side. That’s unique compared to most tracks around the country as far as getting people out here and young people.
“It’s all about trying to create a fun atmosphere.”
The newest group of youngsters giggled and watched intently Sunday as Shakopee High School’s Sammy the Saber crushed an 11-strong field of challengers for his third straight “Mascot Derby” title. The agile prehistoric feline also won the group’s crowd noise-voted dance-off, sweeping the two mascot competitions for the second straight year.
He easily cruised past Canterbury mascot Lucky, a perpetually-grinning, dark-haired stallion that buried his snout in his hands — er, hoofs — after the defeat. Buffy, Buffalo Wild Wings’ representative, had the best chance to unseat Sammy, but even he was left in the dust by the 50-yard trot’s halfway point.
“I think they take their top sprinter on the track team and put him in the Saber costume for us,” Sampson jested in reference to Shakopee High.
Ruff McGruff, apparently a relative of national crime prevention icon Scruff McGruff, was in attendance on behalf of the Shakopee Police Department. He had to be coaxed into even running the race, apparently afraid he’d meet the same fate as Wilbur, a pig representing Famous Dave’s whose hoof fell off just a few paces out of the gates.
Most of the mascots on hand hailed from local businesses and nonprofits. Sampson said it’s difficult to attract higher-profile names from the city’s major professional and collegiate sports teams, as most of them require a fee and have pretty busy schedules this time of year.
An announced contingent of 5,739 spectators took in Mascot Day 2013. That’s nowhere near the crowd of 20,291 that showed up for Extreme Race Day last month, when several different species of wild animals took their turn in short races similar to Sunday’s mascot jaunt.
But it’s still a good draw on a lazy Sunday afternoon, the kind that has Canterbury sitting pretty as both a horseracing and family venue.
“It doesn’t draw people like camels and ostriches,” Sampson said, “but it’s a fun deal.”
Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter
- Exporters told to meet global standards
- Lyon city helps HCM City develop public transport
- Six nations attend “Europe meets Asia in contemporary dance” festival
- Twin blasts in Philippine capital kill at least two: police
- Vinh scores fastest V.League 1 goal
- Twin Nigeria car bombs kill at least 118
- Vietnamese, French notary associations establish twin ties
- Twin bombings kill 14, wound more in south India
- "Vietnam Has Been One of Fastest Expanding Economies in Asia"
- City lawyer to represent tortured boy pro bono
- City to host world delta conference
- Global Grains Trade Summit 2010 to Take Place in HCM City late June
- Vietnam to upgrade overstretched airport in Ho Chi Minh City
- Asset Magazine lauds Citi and Citi Vietnam as the banks to go
- HCMC seeks solutions to build apartments for low-income earners
- VN, RoK beef up local linkages
- An Asia-Pacific pearl glows in Vietnam
- Qatar Airways spreads its wings
- Dai Nam JSC’s CEO: Unwavering Dedication to Create Legacy for Life
- Hungary, Vietnam issue joint declaration on East Sea tensions
Twin Cities mascots meet at racetrack to see who’s fastest have 857 words, post on www.foxsports.com at August 11, 2013. This is cached page on Business News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.