If you've never been to Balmoral Park in Crete, billed as one of the nation's premier harness horse racing facilities, it's been around for a rich 85-year history, and this Saturday 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., watch and listen for the National Anthem performed by actor Larry Adams, a five-time Jeff Award nominee who is currently performing the lead role of Julian Marsh, the director character in the production of "42nd Street" now playing at Theatre at the Center in Munster.
Fans are encouraged to register to win a variety of prizes including:
• All inclusive trip for two to RIU Palace in Riviera Maya, Mexico, courtesy of Apple Vacations
• Up to $1,000 in cash in the "Spin To Win" wheel
• "Beer For A Year" from Budweiser
• 100 Level tickets to a Chicago Bulls 2012-13 game
• Show tickets to see "Million Dollar Quartet"
A favorite gathering area is The Budweiser 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.) featuring Italian beef, Chicken marsala, Gnocchi vodka, and salad as catered by Buona Beef, along with two free drinks of beer, wine or soda, an event t-shirt, race program and entertainment by the Budweiser Girls, live music by The Crawpuppies (8-11 p.m.) and Bernie Glim & the Country Roads Band (5:30-8 p.m.).
Families with children can opt for the Orange & Blue Dinner 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.