Du Quoin State Fair tradition kicked off Tuesday - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Du Quoin State Fair tradition kicked off Tuesday

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DU QUOIN -- One of southern Illinois' oldest traditions took to the racetrack for the excitement of harness racing on Du Quoin's Magic Mile.

It's been called America's pastime, and harness racing has a rich history in southern Illinois.

“For years, Du Quoin was kind of the center of the harness racing universe in the United States, when the Hambletonian was held here from the late 1950s until the 1980s. Then, of course, we had the world trotting derby here for several years," explained Josh Carter with the Illinois State Fair.

Mary Scardale and her husband Harvey, of Granite City, have come to the races for over 50 years.

“He loves the horse races, but I like them, too," she said. "I always come, we both come together.”

Vergennes native Alma Davis chose to spend the day before her birthday having a little fun.

“Well, it’s fun to watch, and fun to bet on," she explained.

Trainer Shawn Nessa of Du Quoin, had two horses in Tuesday's races, which is a tradition passed down through his family.

"I used to help my dad before he passed away but I was doing it when I was [my daughter's] age and then I just got into the training," he said. "Dad let me do it and then I took over and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Nessa and his horse Party Belle, had a good day, taking home first place. He says despite the times when training gets tough, the excitement of the races makes it all worth it.

"You can’t help not to do it, you know?" he explained. "Once you start doing it, you know, nothing else, it’s in your blood and you can’t get rid of it."

If you missed the excitement Tuesday, harness races continue Wednesday starting at noon at Grandstand at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds.

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