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Vernon  

Horse racing began at Vernon's Kin Race Track in the late 1800s

History of horse racing

Site preparation has started for the City of Vernon’s Active Living Centre, to be located at the southern end of the former Kin Race Track site.

The City of Vernon states the new facility will be accessible, inclusive and family-friendly. At a later date, the remainder of the Kin Race Track lands will also undergo revitalization to offer another venue for year-round outdoor activities.

The idea of organizing horse races in Vernon dates back to 1891. By July of that year, a plot of land owned by rancher Cornelius O’Keefe was already being used for this purpose. The site was chosen for its naturally flat terrain, which was subsequently graded.

The Vernon News described the location, noting that “glimpses of distant park-like ranges and verdant wheat fields may be had in all directions, and there is but little doubt that the beauty of the spot will add to the enjoyment of those present at the races.”

Races began in October 1891, and by 1893, a Jockey Club had formed to operate the track. By 1911, it was considered the best half-mile track in B.C.

Enthusiasm for horse racing in Vernon continued to grow into the 1920s, with the site hosting a three-day stampede in July 1926. In the 1930s, the Kinsmen Club of Vernon took over the operations of the Jockey Club and the racetrack, renaming it the Kin Race Track. In the 1940s, the site became home to the celebrated Vernon Days Rodeo.

In 1964, the Kinsmen and Jockey Clubs donated the site to the City of Vernon, and it was maintained by the Vernon and District Agricultural Society. In 1970, a 600-seat grandstand, along with betting booths, was added to the site. Horse racing continued at the venue well into the 1980s and 1990s.

During the 2000s and 2010s, numerous discussions took place regarding the future of the racetrack. On July 9, 2014, the site suffered a major setback when its grandstand was destroyed by arson. The dilapidated buildings were then demolished between 2019 and 2020, but the area continued to serve as a walking track.

While the recent history of the site has perhaps been one of contention, it is reassuring to know that in the future it will continue to serve as an important community space.

Gwyn Evans is the Head of Archives with the Museum and Archives of Vernon.



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