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Remembering the Racearena – Part of Danbury’s Treasured Past

GettyImages-1188492The Danbury Racearena enjoyed a rich and acclaimed history from 1908 until the last race on October 12, 1981.

The following video is one of the last heat races before everything closed down in 1981:

Race enthusiast website, yankeeracer.com say that from the 50s through 1981, the Danbury Racearena was one of the most successful tracks in the country as part of the Southern NY Racing Association (SNYRA).

Who could ever forget the greats like Chick Stockwell, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Webb, and Don LaJoie? The Saturday night races at the Racearena was the place to be in Danbury. The crowds were large and the winnings were high. Don Lajoie’s son, Randy, a successful race car driver in his own right, told yankeeracer.com:

It was a full contact sport where the fans were as much a part of the scene as the drivers. My dad would win a 25-lap feature and take home $4,000!

Fairgrounds property owner John Leahy passed away in 1975 without any kind of will or written disposition regarding how the property would be handled. The Wilmorite Corp. from Rochester purchased the property from Leahy’s estate for $25 million in 1979, and in 1981, the Great Danbury Fair became the Danbury Fair Mall. Here’s a video epilogue from Racearena announcer Paul Baker recorded in 1981:

Even though I moved to Connecticut in 1979, I never seized the opportunity to attend one of those Saturday nights at the Racearena and I regret it, because at the time, it was the life blood of Danbury. According to yankeeracer.com, when five o’clock rolled around and that whistle blew to open those stands on Saturday night, racing fans would run to their seats. 9,000 strong would sit in the same seats every week to cheer on their favorite driver.

Danbury Racearena in 1981 - Credit - YouTube Video by expdent
Danbury Racearena in 1981 – Credit – YouTube Video by expdent

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