Advocate file photo

Harness racing returning to Lacombe track

Track on 2 Racing and Event Centre has high hopes for 2021

Lacombe’s Track on 2 Horse Racing and Event Centre is at the starting gate and rarin’ to go.

This past weekend harness racing returned to the track off Highway 2, just west of Lacombe.

The 1:30 p.m. Sunday event was a standard-bred qualifying event. Fans are not yet permitted to attend the events, under health restrictions.

But for track owners Kyla and Kurt Belich and Ross Morrison the return of the sulkies is a welcome site and hopefully the beginning of a successful season of racing, dining, live music and other special events.

Like most businesses that rely on spectators or walk-in business and diners, the owners already have plenty of experience operating in a pandemic and how to adjust when health regulations change.

Fortunately, their large grandstand means they have a built-in patio space for the Funky Monkey Kitchen and Bar, which has a good view of the race track and can accommodate about 160 diners under the current health regulations.

Last summer, they managed to run races through September and hosted live music concerts and other events, organizing them around the health restrictions in place at the time and taking advantage of an outdoor space in the stands that has a normal occupancy of 700.

“This last year has forced us into some ingenuity,” said Kyla. “That’s never a bad thing.

“I’m not going to lie and say that it was easy,” she said. “I have so much compassion for all of the other small businesses out there that are facing the same challenge.

“Ours is not unique at all.”

Small shelters that were used as overflow accommodations for horses were moved to the grandstand and used for parties of outdoor diners.

“You can see the bite marks on them so it’s the authentic country experience,” she said with a laugh. “I think it will make for a unique setting for future events.”

To meet public health safety measures last year they created zones for visitors and strictly sanitized all public spaces. They issued tickets so they could easily control how many people were allowed in and have simple contact tracing.

The experience gained by finding ways to make do with what is at hand to continue operating safely will serve them well this year.

Now, all they need is for the current health restrictions to be eased, returning to something closer to the rules in place last summer. Track on 2 was able to host up to 375 people split among its three spaces, the outdoor stands, restaurant and a second-floor event venue.

“For the month of June, we are already fully booked for dance events and graduation ceremonies.”

Belich is optimistic that health restrictions will be eased in coming weeks as the health situation improves.

“I’m quite confident things will begin to open up,” she said.

It is not just businesses such as hers that will benefit.

“We’re crossing our fingers, not just for ourselves, but for each of these dance companies as well … as well as the graduates.

“I know a lot of the (dance) companies are willing to proceed even if we can only have 100 people outside and not use the indoor space. They’re really desperate to perform and ramp up to the end in a somewhat normal fashion.”

Hoping for a season start of harness racing in June or July, Track on 2 also hopes to host Indian Relay Racing, where the rider dismounts and hops on another horse between the three laps. They are also ready to relaunch their Stillhouse Songwriter Sessions, featuring local singer-songwriters, as soon as events are permitted.

While the horse racing community is chomping at the bit to get started, the province has yet to give Alberta Horse Racing the go ahead to begin scheduling races this year. The organization says on its website that a number of contingency plans are in place based on whether a limited number of spectators will be allowed and whether racing entertainment centres will be open or closed.



News tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Some examples of ‘kindness’ rocks that were painted by members of the Boys and Girls Club in Rimbey. photo submitted
The ‘kindness rock snake’ continues to take shape in Rimbey

Residents are asked to contribute a ‘kindness rock’ to a project near the Blindman Youth Action Building

The City of Red Deer sits at 249 active cases of the virus, after hitting a peak of 565 active cases on Feb. 22. (Black Press file image)
Red Deer down to 119 active COVID-19 cases

Province identifies 179 new cases Saturday

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Most Read