Dayton Days put on ice

Rising insurance costs and a lack of state funding push events off the calendar.

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DAYTON -- The Dayton Days board of directors decided Wednesday night to mothball the Memorial Day weekend event for a year and "restructure, regroup and do fundraising," Dayton Days president Melissa Hansen said this morning.

They join the organizers of Days of Real Sport in Waitsburg in putting their long-running events on hold.

A 400 percent jump in insurance coverage for jockeys is the main reason the Dayton Days group decided to step back, take a deep breath and investigate other approaches to insurance coverage.

This would have been the 95th Dayton Days, which was cancelled in 2011 due to the equine virus infecting horses in the state.

Days of Real Sport also did not hold its event, primarily two days of parimutuel horse racing and a parade.

Dayton Days events include a Pro West Rodeo, parade and parimutuel racing.

Hansen said the insurance went from $3,500 per day to $11,000 per day, and general liability runs another $3,000 per day.

It was not the cost of insurance, but the lack of state funding, that squelched racing in 2011 for the two communities and for the Walla Walla Fair and Frontier Days.

The state Racing Commission oversees parimutuel horse racing in Washington, and distributes part of the revenue from Emerald Downs in Auburn to nonprofit racetracks.

There have been fewer profits from Emerald Downs, and the racing commission decided to fund only the track in the Tri-Cities with the money it had available.

The lack of funds to support small tracks, and the rise in insurance "probably" is a death knell for horse racing on small tracks, "unless things turn around in the industry itself that would generate any additional revenues out of Emerald Downs that could be funneled down to the nonprofits," Days of Real Sport race chairman Terry Jacoy said in an interview last month.

This would have been the 98th year for Days of Real Sport.

Tracks in Oregon will be running, including in Union and Prineville, Jacoy said.

Dayton Days organizers plan to spend the next few months exploring options, including meeting with their counterparts in Oregon to see how they handle the insurance. "Somehow they're handling their insurance differently, and we want to see what they're doing," Hansen said.

Carrie Chicken can be reached at cec@innw.net or 522-5289.

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