By Katie Demeria
WOODSTOCK -- According to Alvin Lineweaver, several years ago very few people made a point of watching the harness racing at the Shenandoah County Fair. But over the last 10 years, he said, the grandstands have become full.
Lineweaver owns, trains and drives his horses in the harness racing events. His horse Ethical Hanover set the track's pace record in 2005.
While Lineweaver, of Maurertown, has been racing horses since 1959, but that is only a fraction of the time that races have been held at the fair -- it started when the fair began in 1917.
This year's harness racing kicked off Wednesday afternoon, and the stands were filled with spectators. Luck Dynasty, a Mechanicsville horse, won the first race, while a Mount Jackson horse named French Girl came in second.
Betsy Brown, of Woodstock, has been racing all her life, officially getting licensed in 1979.
"I love it," Brown said. "It's great to see the local people support us."
Julia Ritter, a volunteer usher during the event, pointed out that spectators cannot see harness racing at any other local place.
Brown echoed that thought -- in fact, she said, Shenandoah County Fair is the last fair in the state to offer harness racing events.
"That makes us really special," she said.
Judy White and her husband Dale have been visiting the fair every year since they were married 40 years ago. Now they live in Middletown, but for the first seven years of their marriage they lived right around the corner from the fair.
Judy White said she always watched the harness racing because she likes seeing the horses. She even watches it on television, too, and tries to pick a winner.
The Whites were able to see horses not just from the local area, though. Trainers from other states, including Delaware, South Carolina and New York, entered their horses in the races, too.
But Judy White was supporting the local ones -- she was rooting for Lineweaver's mare DVC Just Like Magic in her race.
Stacey Marston, of Woodstock, entered his horse Molly B'Golly in the races Wednesday, as well. He partners with his dad in their racing endeavors, and has been involved for the past 20 years.
The racing landscape has changed over the past several years, according to Brown and Marston. Marston used to work with 14 horses, but now has reduced that number to only one because of how difficult it can be.
"We do love her," Marston said of his horse Molly B'Golly, and his children echoed his remarks. Marston's 8-year-old son Ethan Marston sat in the stables with his family members, and said he wanted her to win.
"It's a joy," Marston said of the event's popularity at the fair. "To us it's a hobby, and it's great that it's becoming more popular."
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org