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Harness racing action in the 1999 Little Brown Jug
Harness racing action in the 1999 Little Brown Jug Photo courtesy the Delaware Gazette

Little Brown Jug (Premiere Horse Pacing Race)

The Little Brown Jug, the premier pacing classic for 3-year-olds, provides a fascinating chapter in the sport and tradition of harness racing.

The first Little Brown Jug was first held in 1946. Every year since then, on the third Thursday after Labor Day, the city of Delaware changes into equal parts harvest festival and racing party. Two years after the state county fair was moved to Delaware in 1937, a half-mile track was built for harness racing.

In 1940, the fair was invited to join the Grand Circuit, the major league of harness racing. In early days, the trotter was the dominant standard bred, but the pacer was gaining popularity. The first Jug attracted a crowd of 27,000, and went for a purse of $38,358. Since then nine triple crowns have passed through Delaware. After fifty years, more than 50,000 people pour into the county fairgrounds to see the Little Brown Jug, the third of pacing's triple crown events. Its name, Little Brown Jug, originated through a newspaper contest.

The fairgrounds employs 450 people during Jug Week, while local organizations volunteer their time. The American Legion and city high school ROTC members sell racing programs; the Kiwanis Club sell tickets at the gates; and the Rotary Club provides ushers.

One distinct Jug tradition is the thousands of assorted lawn chairs that are chained to the fence that surrounds the track; they essentially "reserve" free seats from year to year. Others prefer the comfort of the 14,000-seat grand stand. The Jug attracts fans from all over the country, including actors, sports personalities, and politicians. Since it began, the Jug has consistently produced faster times, record purses, and larger crowds. Harness racing started at country fairs in rural settings, and the tradition lives on.

Documentation includes an profile story of the Jug, written by a newspaper editor, and ten color 8x10 photos.

Originally submitted by: John R. Kasich, Representative (12th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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