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Carlton County Fair – Minnesota’s Horse Racing Roots

The Carlton County Fair in Barnum, Minnesota has been conducting horse racing for more than 100 years. Prior to the opening of what was then Canterbury Downs in 1985, horse racing was prevalent at county fairs across the state and in Wisconsin and Iowa. Gradually, it began to disappear. The Carlton County Fair is the last remaining county fair in Minnesota to host horse races.

Many of the participants at Canterbury Park have roots to county fair racing. It became a generational activity, passed down to children and grandchildren. Greats of the sport like D. Wayne Lukas once raced in Barnum.

The Bethke brothers raced all over the state in those days including at Barnum, where Troy Bethke took his own children to race. Laddie Litfin directed Barnum racing for many years. His father was a trainer there and his son Nevada was once leading rider at the Carlton County Fair. Nik Goodwin started his riding career at Minnesota county fairs. Those are but a few with connections to the early days of racing in Minnesota.

Watch this video to learn more!

The Carlton County Fair is running now through Sunday with horse racing Saturday and Sunday.

Video by Natalie Hoepner