A year ago, when we first undertook reporting on thoroughbred horse racing, our interest in the activities transpiring over at Belmont Park were essentially two-fold.
To begin with, there was the fact that the 192 acre facility is nestled between two of the communities our newspaper chain serves, Elmont and Floral Park.
Then, too, owing to our previous and, in fact, on going reporting on the Nassau economy and downtown revitalization efforts, we envisioned and came to understand the park as a vital economic engine for the county as a whole.
What's been both wonderful and somewhat surprising, however, is how strongly many of our readers have connected with our pieces on Belmont Park - and we must admit we were quite surprised and pleased to learn how many people we knew had some connection to equestrian sports, whether it be to polo, to the old trotter course known as Roosevelt Raceway, to Belmont itself, or even to recreational riding.
Hardly a week goes by when someone doesn't call our office to tell us a thing or two about the thoroughbreds or to share their recollections of memorable racing moments gone by.
With this as our inspiration, and with Belmont Park re-opening for the spring and summer on May 13, we would like to encourage our readers to visit Belmont Park at least once between now and July 26.
Even if you are not a bettor - frankly, we aren't either - there's still much to enjoy about the facility, which after all, is indeed a park.
Belmont's "backyard" recently made even more stroller friendly thanks to the addition of paved pathways, featured a magnificent lawn shaded by dozens of stately oak trees.
In addition to the new paths, are new chess tables, as well as the amenities spectators at the park know well, like the duck pond, the children's playground, and special event tents.
For the remainder of this week, in anticipation of the first race of the spring at Belmont, which will be held at 1 p.m. on May 13, the park is hosting the Belmont Stakes Festival Fair, featuring a variety of fun-filled activities, rides and games.
From May 20 through June 7, an interactive kiosk will be on the grounds to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Secretariat's Triple Crown.
On Saturday, May 30, a commemorative Secretariat poster will be given to every paid admission.
Placing an emphasis on family fun, Belmont Park will also host a series of "family fun days" this year. Between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on every Sunday from May 17 through July 26, the famous Belmont backyard will be the site of several events revolving around a specific theme.
On May 17th, for instance, that theme will be "Peter Pan, the Musical," June 21 will feature "Creepy Crawling Things," while July 26 will salute the "Sidewalks of New York."
So you see, its not just about plucking down a two dollar bet at the mutuel window.
To our minds, if you're tired of the same old summer by the community pool or trudging to the over-crowded mall, Belmont Park may just be the diversion you're looking for - and what have you got to lose, the parking and admission fee to the park comes to a modest $4, and children 12 and under are admitted free.
Appearing on the Insight Nassau television program last week, starter Bob Duncan and jockey Richard Migliore both referred to Belmont as one of Long Island's best kept secrets. Why not experience the secret for yourself?