With Arlington Park closing, our readers share their favorite memories of the track

Racing began at Arlington Park on Oct. 13, 1927, and since then, suburban residents have enjoyed milestones, family events and July Fourth fireworks at the track.

The Arlington Million started in 1981 and has become an annual event horse racing fans look forward to every year. Many remember the fire on July 31, 1985, and the rebuilding of the track that so many of us know and love today.

Arlington Park is a destination for many Illinois visitors, and an iconic landmark in the Northwest suburbs, right off Route 53 in Arlington Heights.

This Saturday could be the final day of racing at Arlington, so we asked our Facebook followers to share their favorite memories of the track. Here's what they had to say.

“It was my mom and stepdad's home away from home as they owned some race horses and spent many hours there. Barn parties and hanging out. Both have passed now and we had my mom's picture placed on the jumbotron while “Happy Trails” played over the speaker at her Celebration of Life. Arlington was so much a part of our lives and my niece is now an exercise rider at the Indiana track.”

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­— Kris Waldenmeyer

“When our kids were younger, my father-in-law used to take us (10 total) to the track pretty much every Father's Day. He would give everyone $20, and if we were lucky enough to win more than $20, we gave him back his $20 and got to keep the rest. After the races were over, he would buy us all pizza. The kids loved to see the horses up close, and really enjoyed spending time with 'Bumpa' at one of his favorite spots.”

— Amy Nelson

“When I was very young, probably 40 or more years ago, I remember my dad would take me with him to the track instead of going to school. It's one of my fondest memories of the many things we did together. I had so much fun.”

— Julie St. John-Gange

“Mother's Day and Father's Day as well as company outings!!!!!!!! Will miss it!!!!”

— Nadia Balli

“Being able to walk to the park from our house with family and friends to enjoy a day at the track.”

— Craig Schuda

“Too many memories, very hard to narrow down to just one. I'll say this, I've seen every Arlington Million held at Arlington Park since its inception in 1981. John Henry was the best but the Illinois-bred The Pizza Man was the most thrilling in 2015!!”

— Kevin Soper

“My dad was there all the time and loved to take us there when we were kids. He let us pick horses for little tiny bets, and then we'd walk to the Winner's Circle to see the winning horse. Our family was there when Secretariat raced at Arlington and my mom was so excited about that. We lived so close that we could hear the announcer from our deck on the days we weren't there and we walked there from our house on the 4th of July for the best fireworks! We watched it burn to the ground and saw the rebuilding of it. So many great memories at Arlington Park.”

— Mary Whiteside

“The fireworks on the 4th of July! Hands down the most amazing show I've ever seen.”

— Amy Castaneda

“Party in the Park and the Arlington Million.”

— Bradley Cotton

“My father-in-law ran horses at Arlington. He had a box under cover right at the finish line! What fun it was. He named his horses after all the family members.”

— Char Buckley

“Remember the old Arlington Paddock, watching it burn down in my pajamas in my dad's blue blazer, loved the tents when it burned down, stepping into the new Arlington after the rebuild, the thrill of winning and taking your picture, running up and down the hill outside of the jockeys room, the roar of the crowd, watching Cigar race ... so many memories ... so sad it is coming to an end.”

— Charlene Crooks

“Even as a kid, my Dad took me to Arlington as my birthday present. He taught me how to read a program, bet and put up the $$$. Some of my favorite childhood memories.”

— Mickey Jeneski

“Secretariat and my best day ever, picking winners 8 of 9 races. Won 1st race, lost 2nd, won every race after.”

— John Burmeister

“My mom used to take my sister and I to the track a lot when we were young kids. As a single mom, it was a fun and special outing for all of us. We usually picked our favorite horses by their names or silk colors. We would watch the horses in the paddock and then race to the finish line for the race. Our favorite thing to do was wait near the Winner's Circle when the jockeys came back from a race. We were able to pet the horses and jockeys would occasionally hand out their goggles which was SO exciting for us, especially if we were lucky enough to get a pair. We attended the races last Sunday for the final time and posed for a picture at the Winner's Circle — my mom cried.”

— Katie Peterson

I met my future wife there in 2014 and got engaged at the track.”

— Al Calalang

“I worked on the cafeteria at the age of 15 and worked my way up to the formal restaurant upstairs. Then over to the hotel next to the racetrack.”

— Stuart McCall

  The crowd watches a race on opening day for the 2021 season at Arlington Park. This Saturday could be the final day of racing at Arlington Park, and many will miss it. John Starks/
Mother's and Father's Day was a family affair at Arlington Park over the decades. Daily Herald file, 2003
  Jockey Florent Geroux, right, wins the 2015 Arlington Million aboard The Pizza Man. It was the only time an Illinois-bred horse won Arlington Park's premier race. Joe Lewnard/, 2015
While horse racing is what made Arlington Park an iconic location, its annual Fourth of July fireworks show provided plenty of memories for suburban residents. Courtesy of Arlington International
THE FIRE: The Arlington Park grandstand was consumed by flames in July 1985. Daily Herald File Photo
  A horse and jockey pass by prospective bettors in the paddock during the 2014 International Festival of Racing at Arlington Park. Joe Lewnard/, 2014
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