Once upon a time, Havre de Grace was known for racing. From 1912 to 1950, horses ran at the Havre de Grace Racetrack, also known as “the Graw.”
On the second Saturday of October, Havre de Grace Main Street brings those days back to life.
During the annual Graw Days Festival, the town’s main drag is closed to traffic, and the area is transformed into the Roaring ‘20s.
Grab a drink at the outdoor speakeasy and listen to ragtime. Savor a crab cake while the kids do their thing. Or head to the restored bank, La Banque de Fleuve, and see historic photographs of the Graw and read about its past. Listen to the “clop, clop” of hooves as you ride a horse-drawn carriage through town.
Real-estate developer Allen Fair remembers Havre de Grace’s early days well. As a child, he would walk horses at the Graw to earn money. After races, he and his friends would climb the Graw’s fence and fill a grocery bag with castoff racing tickets, sorting through the pile for an accidentally discarded winner.
Today, Fair lends some of his vast collection of horseracing memorabilia to the festival. He wants people to learn about and remember those times.
“I saw Citation get beat in Havre de Grace,” recalls Fair. “That horse went on to win the Triple Crown.”
Another renowned horse—Seabiscuit—also raced at the Graw.
“Seeing these famous horses race as I did was just neat,” he says. “I think horseracing gets in people’s blood.”
The festival draws close to 4,000 visitors each year and features about 150 vendors, craftspeople, and artisans, as well as live music. Kids can play games and make crafts, and everyone can enjoy funnel cakes, lemon sticks, homemade ice cream, and more.
Throughout the day, speakers talk about everything from local history to “weird wonders” at the Bank of History. If you like to dance, get tickets for the evening’s Graw Days Gala, which is black-tie optional and period-dress encouraged.
“Graw Days is our signature event,” says Billee Smith, president of Havre de Grace Main Street.
“We have a lot of mom-and-pop stores here, and our heart is really with the downtown businesses. It’s a great family day that shows off our hidden treasures.”
While at the festival, be sure to take a tour of the Graw. There’s a road now where the track used to be, but if you stand in the middle of it and close your eyes, you can almost hear the thunderous hoof beats and cheers of the crowd.
This year’s Graw Days Festival, which takes place Saturday, October 13, marks the 100th anniversary of the Graw. For more information, visit www.mainstreethdg.com.