The Bloomsburg Fair in Pennsylvania has been taking place for 166 years. The fair started way back in 1855, which was even before the Civil War.
I have been attending the fair since I was a kid in the 1950’s. I have great memories of attending the fair with my parents. There was always a large race track that sat right in the middle of the fairgrounds, with vendors, rides, and games surrounding it.
Underneath the large, covered grandstands there were two rows of vendors, with many selling toys that attracted me every time we went.
I remember the horse racing on the cinder surface going on while we were there but, unfortunately, I was never there when an auto race took place. I never understood how they could run on a cinder surface instead of clay.
This year, that has all changed, because the fair board decided to put a full-blown three-eighths-mile dirt track in the middle of the half-mile surface.
Racing at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds started in 1922. I remember a friend of my dad who owned a towing business in Hazleton. His name was Bill Meiss, and his wrecker had an image of Mighty Mouse on it.
He also owned a midget with the same Mighty Mouse image on it, and he loved racing and winning the Bloomsburg Fair midget race.
The final auto racing event took place in 1987 during fair week, won by local star Johnny Heydenreich. It has been 33 years now since cars roared around the
Talk of bringing racing back began after the Monster Jam Truck Show presented by the Amory Agency in 2019. The truck show is always a big draw for the facility and got people reminiscing about auto racing at Bloomsburg. The idea was brought to the fair board in August of 2020 and there was a positive reaction.
Since the announcement, there has been all positive feedback. With eight events on the schedule, and all touring series, it should bring eight busy weekends to local businesses in the town of Bloomsburg.
The fair board brought in USAC Executive Vice President Levi Jones and B.J. Birtwell, of Birtwell’s Armory Agency of Texas, to design and build the track. They both visited the facility an gave their input for creating a top-notch three-eighths-mile dirt track. There was already a 5,500-capacity covered grandstand, but the covered stage built for concerts in the infield had to be torn down.
Tons of clay was brought in to create the surface with an eight-degree banking in the turns. A four-foot concrete retaining wall was built, with a 12-foot catch fence on top, and new lighting was installed. The cinder horse track is still there and will be used for the horse racing. There will still be concerts, but a temporary stage will have to be built for each event.
The pit area will be outside the track for all shows except the one fair race, which then will be moved to the horse track.
Port Royal Speedway promoter Steve O’Neal has been brought in to promote the races at the track. Right now, the first of the eight events scheduled for this year will take place on June 20, with USAC sprints competing as part of the Eastern Storm.
The final event of the season will take place on Oct. 2, featuring ARDC midgets and PASS 305 sprints. In between, there will be a variety of URC sprints, dirt modifieds, USAC midgets, USAC East Coast sprints, late models, super sportsman events and more. The Oct. 2 date is also the final night of the Bloomsburg Fair.
It will be the first time since 1985 that midget racing will be part of the annual Bloomsburg Fair.
It sure is nice to see a new dirt track getting built in 2021, instead of the usual complaints of noise and dust and attempts to close one down.