Blowe begins her first full year at the picturesque track in 2011 and already has mapped out dozens of events and special days for the place where the great Northern Dancer won his maiden race.
Fort Erie racetrack got a new lease on life when the Fort Erie Racing Consortium was formed a year ago and stepped in last July to run the track on a three-year lease, in essence rescuing it from closure.
Under manager Rick Cowan, a small staff including Blowe, who was part of the team as an on-air host with longtime track announcer and media manager Daryl Wells Jr, the oft-troubled Fort Erie showed sparks of life with the addition of twilight racing, Quarter Horse dashes and some cool promotional days.
“I think about all the great things that have happened at Fort Erie over the years and I just want to keep it going,” said Blowe.
“We are working hard for everyone involved, no one can say we are not trying.” Growing up in the one-stoplight town of Greenbank, Ontario, just north of Oshawa, Blowe helped her parents Don and Beth work a small farm of standardbreds. “My mom trained the horses on the quarter-mile track on the farm and my Dad drove them in races at Barrie, Orangeville, all over,” said Blowe.
“We didn’t have any babysitters in the area so my mom would hook up the toboggan to the back of the cart and pull my brother and I along behind her.” Blowe was immersed in racing early on and recalls that her first show-and-tell project at school was a racing program.
“My Dad would take us to the track when he wasn’t racing, but we’d go see thoroughbreds,” said Blowe. “I went to see Mickey Walls ride. It was cool because he was close to my age.”
When her parents got out of harness racing because they found it difficult to make money, Blowe pursued her other loves, theatre and broadcasting.
She joined a theatre group that performed at various Ontario festivals and when it was time to attend college, she signed up for a broadcasting major at Conestoga College in Kitchener.
Of course, her many visits back to see her folks included more than one stop at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville. It was at Mohawk one evening that her father suggested she seek a job on the frontside of the track.
Blowe soon got summer jobs in the media departments at Mohawk and then later at Woodbine.
“I spent a lot of time in the library, studying stakes winners and trying to learn everything about thoroughbred racing. After my final year at college I was offered a job in the race office at Woodbine where I learned so many other different aspects of the business.”
As a horse lover first and foremost, Blowe left Woodbine for a while to pursue her own business, called Phase2 Thoroughbreds, which quickly became a full time, successful business for two years.
She bought and sold over 400 racehorses that could not make it at the track and, coincidentally, many of them came from Fort Erie.
Blowe quickly bonded with the horsepeople at Fort Erie and fell in love with the track and the town. She spent a few winters traveling to racetracks in the United States during her Phase2 business years before returning to Ontario and applying for a broadcasting job with Woodbine’s horse racing channel.
On her off days, she would help out Wells doing some on-air hosting at Fort Erie while still buying and selling racehorses.
When the workload got to be too much, her Phase2 business was put on hiatus. In April, 2010 when Fort Erie was heading for new ownership, Blowe left Woodbine to work exclusively at the border oval.
“I knew Fort Erie was about to go through a transition and I wanted to be a part of it. There is just something about it, it was where I wanted to live. There are a lot of mom and pop operations, it reminded me of where I grew up.”
By June, when Wells had left Fort Erie, Cowan offered the media and marketing job to Blowe and her first assignment was to get everything ready for the Prince of Wales. “It was baptism by fire, for sure,” said Blowe. “I worked everyday, all day, I knew people would be watching and I wanted our horsepeople and our community to be proud.” Prince of Wales day went off smoothly and by the end of the meeting, in October, the track had seen some boost in business on “Twilight Tuesdays” (Twilight Mondays in the summer will be added this year).
A new Fort Erie season for 2011 will see a flashy new website, a long list of special events where fans can interact with horsepeople and, according to Blowe, the summer months will see more exciting additions to the track ambiance.“I think that there has already been so many positive changes at Fort Erie,” said Blowe. “We have a small company so the communication is great. We all really care about the horsemen and the fans.”