Ever year, I look forward to a very special night each September at Balmoral Park in Crete, billed as one of the nation's premier harness horse racing facilities. This amazing and exciting property has been around for a rich 85-year history, and tonight is the perfect opportunity to see for yourself.
It's the place where anyone and everyone, from gangster Al Capone and Newspaper Gossip Columnist Louella Parsons to aviatrix Amelia Earhart have trekked to for fun and excitement.
The weekend weather is set to be a hint of a taste of crisp fall temps for the the annual "Super Night" celebration, also tagged as "Illinois' Richest Night in Harness Racing," since Illinois bred horses run for more than $1.3 million in purse money.
The fun starts even before the first race begins.
Not only is admission to the park free, as well as free parking, but the first 2,000 guests receive a collectible glass pint drinking tumbler.
In addition to the championship racing, there will be a variety of different festivities and free giveaways.
But first, after the doors open at 5:30 p.m. and there are free drawings throughout the night, including fans encouraged to register to win a variety of prizes such as:
• All inclusive three-night trip to Riu Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, courtesy of Apple Vacations
• "Beer For A Year" from Miller Lite
• Tickets to see Dennis Miller at Star Plaza Theatre in October
• Show tickets to see the Broadway in Chicago run of the comedy stage musical "ELF"
A favorite gathering area is The Miller Lite First Turn Tent Party, which is "a 21 and over outdoor party" on the first turn grassy area. The $30 admission includes: All You Can Eat Food buffet (6-8 p.m.) along with two free drinks of beer, wine or soda, an event t-shirt, race program and entertainment from 5:30-11 p.m.).
Families with children can opt for the Orange & Blue Dinner for $17.50 on the 2nd floor mezzanine, which offers the same buffet as the First Turn Tent Party, with two soft drinks and a race program and children under 5 are free.
And one of my favorite areas is the free museum, with a recreation of stables, a vintage "starting line car" and an array of framed photos.
Saturday's racing starts at 6:30 p.m.
Balmoral Park, 26435 S Dixie Hwy, is located right off 394, just 12 miles south of 80/94. It features live racing every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. FYI: (708) 672-1414 or balmoralpark.com.