HAWKINSVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - If there is anything you would like to know about harness racing, ask Dan Ater. He runs the Hawkinsville Harness Track.
"It's as old as...the 1800's," Ater said.
Whether it's hooking up the harness to the horse, maintaining the mile and half mile sand and clay track, or getting behind the horse and going for a quick jog, Ater has this place under control.
But this isn't a story about Ater. Nor is this a story about the difference between the two types of horses that are trained year round here. They're called Trotters and Pacers if you were wondering, and Pacers are the faster of the two.
One of the ways this track is helping make Hawkinsville great is simply by the rich history it has within the community.
"From way back in the early 1900's," City Manager Jerry Murkerson said.
Maybe part of the story should include the fact that there are more than 100 horses being kept here this winter to train and stay in shape, and with them come their owners. Owners who bring money to the community.
"They not only need supplies for the horses...they need to live. They either own or rent property in this community," Murkerson said.
Maybe another part of this story should ask the question, did you even know this track was here? Horse owners and racers from across the country are here every year to spend money, train their horses, and pump money into the Pulaski County economy.
And the track is more than 80 acres of play time for these racers. The Hawkinsville Harness Track is the last stop to get these horses in shape and qualified for yearly competition. If they qualify here, they travel the rest of the country to earn a living.
"When they go back home in April, they go back to make money," Lee Slade of the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce explained. "They go back home to race."
So maybe you've never heard or harness racing, Mr. Ater will tell you what you need to know.
"It's good clean fun."
Maybe you're interested in learning more, talk to Mr. Slade.
"If you like horses, if you like outdoors, if you like racing, this is a lot of fun."
Or if you are a horse owner, talk to Mr. Murkerson.
"We welcome them to come to our community."
To celebrate and thank the racers who spend their winter months in Hawkinsville to stay out of the cold northern states, the track sponsors the Hawkinsville Harness Festival in April. That's where the racers qualify to race for the rest of the year, and it's open to the public.
To get more information about the festival, click here.