Uncertainty surrounding Truro Raceway our pick for News Story of the Year

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BIBLE HILL - Looking back on 2013, the year was filled with many local stories that could be billed as News Story of the Year.

Truro Raceway experienced highs and lows during the 2013 live harness racing season. The track was scheduled to close in July, before it was given a short-term reprieve, while a long-term solution was worked out. Racing did continue at the Bible Hill oval throughout the summer and fall months. The track has shut down for the winter and is scheduled to re-open in mid-April.

A heroic rescue by a Tatamagouche student to save her teacher from choking, a historic hockey title, and the opening of a new recreational facility, just to name a few, were given consideration by the Truro Daily News.

But one story that had the potential to affect hundreds of people's livelihoods stood out above the rest, and for that reason, the uncertain future of harness racing at Truro Raceway stood out above the rest.

On July 8, the board of the Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition (NSPE) Commission voted to shut down harness racing at Truro Raceway because of a crippling financial situation that has haunted the organization for years.

It was a "bombshell," announcement Steve Morton, president of the Truro Harness Horse Owners Association, said at the time.

Faced with a $1-million debt, NSPE officials made the decision, and horsemen received written confirmation that water and power to the stables would be shut off by Aug. 15 and all horses must be vacated by that time.

"Financially at the moment we have to just discontinue the races," said Roger MacCallum, general manger of the exhibition commission.

"This is not something that happened in the last year or the last two years. This is an ongoing thing and it has just been going downhill. And, at the moment, the place can no longer financially employ the people and keep paying out what it has to keep paying out."

Hope, however, was restored following an emergency meeting on July 12. The meeting included Morton, local MLA Lenore Zann and local businessman Brent MacGrath, who was chosen to lead a committee that would put together a long-term plan for the raceway.

"I think we've got the right people involved," an optimistic Ryan Ellis, Truro Raceway's leading driver, told this newspaper. "It's hard to say how profitable it can be, but it can be sustainable and I believe that it's going to go."

And go it did. Racing continued in July, which included Atlantic Grand Circuit Week, and throughout August.

On Sept. 5, the exhibition commission issued a press release, stating that live racing at 138-year-old track would continue. And although there was no timetable given for how long the track would operate, it was welcome news to horsemen.

"It's pretty good," said Bernard (Pooker) McCallum, a trainer and driver for the past 37 years. "It's nice to know we're going to be racing for the next little while."

Morton was relieved with the decision to continue live racing, saying shutting down would kill any momentum the raceway had gained since July's announcement the track would close. Just weeks after that, the raceway experienced it's best Atlantic Grand Circuit Week in several years with significant spikes in both attendance and betting.

"You don't want to lose that fan base, the new people and all that momentum we've been able to gain," he said. "Plus, you want to give the owners an opportunity to earn money, pay stall rent and race their horses. Starting in April and closing in September would make no sense."

Racing at the Bible Hill oval continued through the fall. The final race of the 2013 season was scheduled for Dec. 15, however, bad weather forced the cancellation of the card. Two other attempts were made to hold the card, but again Mother Nature had the final word and forced cancellations.

The decision was made on Dec. 27 to shut down for the winter. Live racing is expected to resume at Truro Raceway in the spring.


Following are other top news stories of the year reported by the Truro Daily News:

County residents shocked, saddened with murders, murder-suicide

Two communities were rocked in 2013 with the loss of life in tragic ways.

In October, 47-year-old Cheryl Thompson was strangled to death in her Truro Heights apartment she shared with her husband, Gerald, 49.

Her body was found in the early morning hours, and less than 24 hours later, Gerald died of a self-inflicted gun shot after barricading himself in a vehicle on a private road in the Portapique area.

While members of the community are still healing from that incident, a mother and daughter were killed in a home on Pictou Road on Dec. 27.

The bodies of Elizabeth MacPherson, 54, and 24-year-old Brittany MacPherson were found at the home after police responded to a 911 call.

Gerald Rushton, 47, who also lived at the home, was found with serious injuries and is now facing two counts of first-degree murder. He is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 15.



Tatamagouche student saves teacher

A North Colchester High School teacher is lucky to be alive today and he has a student to thank.

During a lunch break at the Tatamagouche school on Nov. 26, teacher Garnett Nickelo found himself in a bit of trouble and was grateful student Maggie Langille came to his rescue.

Nickelo was eating a roast beef lunch in his homeroom while battling a cold when a piece of his sandwich became lodged in his throat.

Langille, a Grade 11 student, and a handful of other students were eating their lunch in Nickelo's homeroom that day.

"I saw him take a sip of water and put his head down. I asked, ‘you OK?' and he shook his head no. I asked, ‘do you need the Heimlick' and he said yes," said Langille, 16, of The Falls.

She said the maneouvre only took about 10 seconds before the stuck food was freed from Nickelo's throat.



Bearcats hoist Fred Page Cup on home ice

For the first time in the Truro Bearcats' 16-year history, the Fred Page Cup was in their hands.

The Bearcats hosted the Fred Page Cup Eastern Canadian junior A hockey championship at the Community Credit Union Arena in early May in front of more than 2,100 fans to earn the title.

Truro defeated Summerside 3-2 in double overtime in the championship game.



Site chosen for new library

After 25 years of discussion and debate, the site for the new regional library was made.

Truro town council unanimously voted to put the new regional library in the town's old Normal College, however, Colchester County council wanted the library to be relocated to the old hat factory and bowing alley.

The county agreed to provide 40 per cent of the $7-million project, and is expected to honour that commitment.

The decision came after months of voting, tied between the two locations, and public tours of both properties. Residents that toured the facilities were able to see plans at each property.



Rath Eastlink Community Centre opens

It was delay after delay for the Rath Eastlink Community Centre, but it finally opened to the public - well, in spurts.

While the centre's management was hoping to have all aspects open to the public at the same time, it realized doing so would put the opening off even longer, so it opened the Community Credit Union Arena in March.

The opening day of the Kohler Klimbing Wall came on April 20, and more than 150 people took to the waters of the two pools in the Wilsons Aquatic Centre over the long weekend in May.



Blues Brothers rock Bible Hill

The grounds at the Truro Raceway were packed in August as the Blues Brothers - Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi - were headliners at the ninth annual Dutch Mason Blues Festival.

More than 10,000 people took in the performance, which saw members of the audience dance on stage with the iconic performers, and James Cotton join in on a song or two.

Festival producer Dave DeWolfe said in the months leading up to the three-day event that he had been working on negotiations with the Blues Brothers for three or four years.






Organizations: Normal College, Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition, Truro Daily News News Story Truro Harness Horse Owners Association Community Credit Union Arena North Colchester High School Tatamagouche school Blues Brothers Truro town council Colchester County council Rath Eastlink Community Centre Wilsons Aquatic Centre

Geographic location: Truro Heights, Portapique, Pictou Road The Falls

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