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November 20, 2008 - 9:19am

Batavia Downs: No. 8 in What Made Genesee County Famous

posted by Philip Anselmo in Batavia Downs, Holland Land Office Museum.

There's really no way to say it better than Pat Weissend:

"Traffic backed up at the New York State Thruway as thousands of people from the east and the west merged to spend their entertainment dollars on a chance to make more money at one of Genesee County’s best known attractions: Batavia Downs!"

So it is that Batavia Downs lands at No. 8 in the Holland Land Office Museum's countdown of the 25 Things That Made Genesee County Famous.

The harness racing track is the oldest night-time pari-mutuel track in North America. Batavia Downs opened on Friday, September 20, 1940 at 8:20 p.m. to an estimated crowd of 2,500 people. A total of $629 was bet on the first race and over $10,000 was bet on the first card.  

The opening was the dream of William “Lefty” Goldberg and others who, as shareholders in the Monroe - Genesee Breeders Association, chose Batavia because of its location between Rochester and Buffalo. The Monroe - Genesee Breeders Association is the predecessor of the Monroe - Genesee Racing Association. The first season’s attendance was 25,935 people with a total bet of $310,790. The following year, attendance and betting doubled, but racing was canceled in 1942 and 1943 due to travel restrictions and gas rationings.

For more on Batavia Downs and how it made us famous, be sure to visit the Holland Land Office Museum Web site. While your there, you can peruse the other 17 "things" that have so far made the list. You can also hit up the museum's blog to leave your two cents about what should make it in the top seven.

Image of Batavia Downs program from 1964 taken from the Holland Land Office Museum Web site.

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