The Meadowlands Racetrack’s Championship Meet kicked off on May 6, but the arrival of summer will take the 46-year-old racetrack to new levels of entertainment offerings.
This Saturday, as Memorial Day weekend kicks into gear, the track is offering “Summer Swag” drawings for a chance to win everything from a Bud Light seltzer cooler, to a Ranger Solo portable fire pit, to jerseys of such baseball players as Derek Jeter, Pete Alonso, or David Ortiz, to a football signed by Jeff Feagles, to an eight-day, seven-night trip for four to Hawaii.
On June 11, it’s the return of the popular “Wiener Dog Derby,” as fans watch dachsunds race down the stretch between harness races.
Seven days later, it’s the annual Meadowlands Racetrack Burger Battle, with prizes of $1,500, $1,000, and $750 for the cooks voted to have made the best burger patties.
Then on June 25, the Meadowlands Wine Festival will tempt the palates of connoisseurs with advance general admission of $45 for the event or $65 for VIP Admission. Fan Appreciation & Fireworks Night will be July 2, with $1 hot dogs, popcorn, and soda, plus $2 Budweisers. One Saturday later, it’s the BBQ Extravaganza with $500 prizes for the best brisket, chicken, pulled pork, and ribs. The Seafood Festival — think raw bar plus food trucks with fried clams, fish tacos, crab fries, and lobster rolls — takes place on July 30.
Oh, and there’s racing too
The biggest night of the horse racing year at the East Rutherford track is the Meadowlands Pace on July 16, with a $2.5 million purse that includes $700,000 for the main race featuring three-year-old pacers. Free “settin’ the pace since ’77” T-shirts will be available for early arrivals, and local food trucks will be on hand as well.
The season wraps up with The $1 Million Hambletonian on Aug. 6, first post time at noon. The $5 admission is offset by receipt of a free commemorative baseball cap for all.
The “Hambo” is an annual treat for thousands of local families who enjoy pony rides, carnival games and rides, live music, and other attractions beyond the best races the harness industry has to offer in North America.
Monmouth Park also ready for the summer season
Monmouth Park in Oceanport, the state’s lone thoroughbred racetrack, kicked off its summer season on May 8 — one day later than planned, due to inclement weather.
Visitors will get a chance to experiment with fixed odds wagering, meaning “what you bet is what you get” — there is no cause for concern that your 10-1 horse, for example, gets bet down to only a 5-1 return for you just as the race begins.
As for attractions, The Summer Wind is a new outdoor dining venue located on the first floor of the Clubhouse. For $35 per person, patrons can enjoy a menu that features a buffet-style soup-and-salad bar and a rotating chef’s choice entrée, with a cash bar.
Memorial Day weekend will feature a three-day Food Truck Festival, and June 5 is the date for the track’s 50th annual Irish Day Festival.
Father’s Day on June 19 offers gentlemen free admission, while the following weekend features a two-day intriguing pairing: a first-time Wine & Pizza Festival with live music, with a $17 advance fee or $20 at the door.
Patrons of a certain age may especially gravitate to the events of July 9-10. It starts with the exclusive Heineken Cigar Luncheon for $150 including five premium cigars, full bar, and lunch buffet, followed a day later by the free Classic Car Show & Oldies Day that will show off 150 vintage automobiles.
Ladies Day arrives on July 16, with a fashion show and a ladies’ hat parade with prizes.
The highlight of the summer season, as always, is the $1 Million Haskell Invitational, which this year takes place on July 23. There will be no Triple Crown-sweeping horse this year, but some of the top horses in those three races may finally go head-to-head at this prestigious event.
A July 30 Italian Festival & Wine Tasting is followed up with an Aug. 6 International Food Festival and then a Surf & Turf Food Festival seven days later.
Labor Day Weekend on Sept. 4-6 means it’s time for the BBQ and NJ Craft Beer Festival, with Saturday and Sunday also featuring pony rides, clowns, face painters, and a bounce house from noon to 4 p.m.