TRURO – Arleen Gillis watches as her husband, Joe leads their horse off the track after some prepping for Atlantic Grand Circuit Week starting Monday.
“Funny story,” she says, straying from a different topic as she gazes at her husband and their horse. “It was the same day we bought that horse that we found out we had to leave.”
Exactly one year ago, the Gillis family opened their chequebook and purchased Western Scot, a promising three-year-old gelding.
“It was an exciting day,” Gillis said. “I came down to the track and handed over an envelope of money. Then I came back here and I saw another envelope. It was an eviction notice.”
The raceway was over $1 million in debt. There wasn’t enough revenue coming in and bills were going unpaid. The Nova Scotia Provincial Exhibition, which operates the track, gave them their notice. There would be no Atlantic Grand Circuit Week.
The Gillis’ were left scrambling. With a stable full of horses, including their latest purchase, they had limited time to find places for their horses to go.
“You don’t want to get rid of them, ever,” Gillis said, as she looked to a horse behind her. “This guy here, we’ve had him for six years. They become like family.”
With the quick efforts of the community – at the track, in business and in government – the track lived to see the end of the summer. With the last minute rush, a group of organizers managed to put together the festival in limited time.
This year, everybody is breathing a lot easier heading into Atlantic Grand Circuit Week.
“It’s so much different this year,” said owner Mandy Ellis, as she brushed down one of her horses on Wednesday night, as her son Brodie played outside. “We’re definitely able to sit back and enjoy it more, without having to wonder what is going to happen next.”
With the events laid out and everybody breathing easy, the festival is shaping up to be a great redeemer for the track.
“The Exhibition Cup always draws a big crowd every year,” Gillis said. “But hopefully this year all the events will be able to draw in a crowd and we can get some new fans coming back each week.”
While Gillis recognizes Truro Raceway still has a long road ahead of them, she’ll be happy to take in the events this year with her family.
“It’s a tough industry that doesn’t make a lot of money,” she said. “But it’s our lives. I grew up here with my father, and now our kids are involved in it too. It’s a part of all of us.”
The 33rd annual Atlantic Grand Circuit Week will get underway on Monday, July 22, kicking off a week of harness racing at Truro Raceway.
A list of events is as follows:
July 22 – Atlantic Sires Stakes (two-year-old pacing fillies and two/three-year-old trotters). 6:30-10 p.m.
July 24 – Atlantic Sires Stakes (two-year-old pacing colts). 6:30-10 p.m.
July 26 – Atlantic Sires Stakes (three-year old pacing colts) and Exhibition Cup Invitational. 6:30-10 p.m.
July 27 – Frank and Beth Stanfield Memorial (three-year-old pacing fillies) and Agred Mares. 1:30-8 p.m.