Hazel ParkAugust 13, 2014
Calling all bikers: Raceway hosts ‘Hogs and Horses’
By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer
HAZEL PARK — Hazel Park Raceway has a been happening place ever since the return of the thoroughbreds — on Friday and Saturday nights, at least, when the steeds take to the track.
Things get considerably quieter at the raceway the rest of the week. Looking to better utilize all of that land — roughly 10 percent of Hazel Park’s geographic footprint — organizers at the track have been considering other attractions, like a microbrewery and a sports bar-style restaurant.
Event programming is another avenue under consideration. And on that note, the Madison Heights/Hazel Park Chamber of Commerce — of which the raceway is a member — will be sponsoring a special event at the end of this month.
Called “Hogs and Horses,” the event is a motorcycle rally that invites bikers to bring their ride to the track for mingling with fellow gearheads. The get-together will take place from 6-10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27, at the raceway, 1650 E. 10 Mile at the corner of Dequindre. Admission is $5 per bike or $3 per person without a bike.
Bikers are directed to pass through the main gates and head under the bridge housing the restaurant between the grandstand and the clubhouse. All bikes will be parked on the apron alongside the track. Volunteers will be directing traffic, so it’ll be straightforward.
The event is like a classic car show for motorcycle enthusiasts. It’s inspired by similar rallies that occur on a weekly basis at the Gibraltar Trade Center and another show in downtown Royal Oak.
“Those are just so huge that when we were brainstorming things we could use the outside space for at the track, we thought what if we try to do a rally here, and the hospitality coordinator said that’d be great,” said Keri Valmassei, executive director of the chamber. “These bikers pack the trade center and downtown Royal Oak each week, so they’re probably looking for some place to go the rest of the week. We are promoting this through a lot of motorcycle dealerships in the area, since they all have calendars, and we’ve been reaching out to different Harley chapters in the area, as well.”
There will be no live racing the night of the event, but there will be simulcast betting, as always, and there will also be stable tours. The event features a barbecue for purchase and a cash bar will also be available. WXYZ Chanel 7 news anchor Stephen Clark will be there with his band The Trending Topics, performing classic covers and country rock. There will also be “British invasions tunes” — covers of The Beatles, The Who, etc. — by the Redcoat Time Machine, a Madison Heights-based band.
“I hope this brings in new faces from the community, so people can see the positive changes that have been made in Hazel Park and what a great venue the track is,” Valmassei said. “Maybe they’ll come back for a race in the future. Where else can you go for $1 hot dogs and $2 beers? You can have a great night out and only pay like $5.”
She added that renewed interest in the raceway has been good for the city, as well. More than 14,000 people showed up the opening night of the thoroughbred meet. Weeks later, attendance was still strong at 8,000 people.
“It’s great for the community of Hazel Park to have all of that renewed traffic,” Valmassei said. “Those people come in, they eat here, they buy gas here, they notice the retail here. It’s wonderful for all.”
The raceway is one of nearly 300 businesses currently in the Chamber of Commerce. Together, they enjoy educational opportunities and networking functions through the chamber that can lead to new clients and collaborations. There are around 2,000 businesses in total across Madison Heights and Hazel Park, so there is still room to grow.
The chamber has programs like BRAND, short for Business Referral and Networking Development, where members share their business situation in a supportive environment and generate referrals for one another that result in new business.
There have also been seminars, such as one on crowdfunding and another on using social media, to advance one’s business. These seminars are especially helpful to small businesses that don’t currently have the means to hire a consultant.
The chamber also awards scholarships to help the community, and fosters relationships between the business community and city at large, by connecting charities and civic groups with businesses that have the right resources.
One example is the WomenBuild for Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, currently taking place in Madison Heights. The chamber has been mobilizing member businesses to help out with volunteers and materials.
Member businesses pay an average $100 a year to be a part of the chamber, connecting them to everything from established international organizations to smaller mom-and-pop shops, home-based businesses and fledgling upstarts, running the gamut from restaurants and beauty salons to computer repair and manufacturing, and more.
Now the chamber is conducting outreach to bikers across metro Detroit, hoping to get as many engines revving at the raceway as possible.
Mike Stommen, general manager of Hazel Park Raceway, said the track is excited.
“This is the type of thing we want to do more, utilizing the facility beyond racing,” Stommen said. “We’re always exploring new items and attractions.”
And the timing couldn’t be better.
“We are continuing to get big crowds,” Stommen said. “It was certainly the right decision to move to thoroughbreds. There’s just so much more interest now.”
Hogs and Horses will take place at Hazel Park Raceway, 1650 E. 10 Mile, at the corner of Dequindre, beginning at 10 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 27. Admission is $5 per bike, or $3 per person without a bike. For more information, call (248) 542-5010 or email mhh firstname.lastname@example.org.