Two Millarville couples that have been heading to the Millarville Races for decades are the main attraction this weekend.
Avid volunteers Gerald and Sandra Bull and Allan and Joan Tosh are being honoured during the opening ceremonies of the 114th running of the Millarville Races at the Millarville Racetrack July 1 for their ongoing dedication to the event.
“They’ve been very active members of the racetrack community for well over 40 years,” said race chair Anna De Paoli. “We have about 100 people who come together to put this event on, which attracts up to 5,000 visitors. Without people like the Toshes and the Bulls to support this event over generations it wouldn’t happen. It’s very important for us to be able to thank them.”
The Millarville Races feature a stock horse race, ladies sidesaddle race, pari-mutuel races, wiener dog races and children’s races and games.
Next week’s event kicks off with the singing of O Canada by Rob Kroeger at noon, followed by a small parade honouring the Toshes and Bulls and an Indian relay bareback race demonstration sponsored by the Tsuu T’ina Nation and Grey Eagle Casino.
“The races are a flagship event for the Millarville Racing and Agricultural Society,” said De Paoli. “This is one of the oldest events and it’s very popular, so we want to take this opportunity to honour those who’ve helped.”
The Bulls commit time, equipment and expert advice to the event, with Gerald creating security gates for the racetrack and donating his time to harrow the track, move rig mats and operate the starting gate for each race. He also constructed a new pari-mutuel building for the infield and new consoles for the pari-mutuel betting machine, and served as president of the society’s board of directors.
“I spent a lot of years there, like my parents and grandparents,” said Gerald, who grew up beside the racetrack. “Dad operated the children’s races for several years and my mom always worked in the concession making coffee and hamburgers.”
Gerald said the races were quite the social event back in the day.
Sandra, who has served on the board of directors, opened the races with O Canada for 28 years, managed the information booth and sold programs for nearly 40 years, agrees.
“It’s about community and getting to know your neighbours and working together,” she said. “That’s what you did. It’s been an important part of our life.”
Sandra said it was part of their children’s lives as well, with their eldest Duane serving as course clerk and youngest Ryan running the children’s foot race events.
Also members of society, the Toshes have volunteered time, energy and their experiences to the event for decades.
On the board of directors, Allan made decisions about events at the racetrack, as well as announced at the races and assisted with parking.
“It keeps the place going,” said Allan of the volunteerism. “Times were tough back then. There wasn’t all the money that’s around now. People had to go over there and work if they wanted to keep the place going. We just found time to do it.”
Allan echoes the Bulls’ comments that volunteering at the event was a great way to get involved in the community.
“It was a place where we could get together with the neighbours,” he said. “Sometimes you were working and building stuff, but you’re always having fun.”
Wife Joan has worked on race day at the information booth and selling programs.
“When the boys were little we took turns working events,” she said of herself and Allan. “You were responsible for keeping activities going over there. It was just part of the community life. You got to meet a lot of people.”
Allan’s dad Scottie used to race his horses at the event, recalls Joan.
“The highlight of his whole year was the weekend of the races,” she said.
Today, the Toshes sponsor the Scottie Tosh Memorial Race where the winner is presented the W.S. Tosh Memorial Trophy, a tradition that began in 1972 in memory of Allan’s father.