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
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
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).
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.