A look at some of the favorite holiday traditions, songs, gifts and memories of prominent people in harness racing.
by Dave Briggs
In an ongoing holiday tradition, Harness Racing Update again polled some of harness racing’s biggest names to ask them four holiday questions:
1.What is your favorite holiday tradition?
2.What is your favorite holiday song?
3.What is your favorite holiday memory from your childhood?
4.What is the best gift you have ever received?
1. The day after Christmas myself, my brothers, our families, and my parents all head to the barn and jog that year’s 2-year-olds. Sometimes we turn them to train, but mostly, we just hang out, laugh, and check out our stock for the upcoming year.
2. I’m not much for Christmas music but Trysta’s rendition of Rudolf the “Black” Nosed Reindeer is hilarious.
3. Trace had a pony growing up named Beautiful and the year before she passed all of us got together with our kids, rode her, and took pictures. I’m thankful we did that because she meant a lot to all of us.
4. I got a pony named Bill Pony years ago. He was awesome.
1. We have breakfast of orange rolls and bacon. As you get older and have 11 grandkids that is the most peaceful part of the day!
2. Ave Maria. My wife plays the Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert tape every year on speakers throughout the house. Puts you in the mood. Takes a lot to make me relax, but that works.
3. Just having my mom with me, who died of cancer when I was a young man. I miss her.
4. Can’t even think of one, the gift part is not my favorite part of Christmas. I am a hard person to buy for! Seeing the excitement watching the little kids open theirs I would say is the best gift, honestly.
1. Going to our Florida home.
2. Ten different Beatles songs
3. Playing street hockey in the snow
4. My wife/children/grandchildren. Love them all.
1. My favorite thing about Christmas is spending time with my wife and kids. With a 16 and 17 year old, I don’t know how many more years our home will be their home.
2. I don’t really have a favorite song but Mariah Carey has few that come to mind.
3. My favorite memory is just the anticipation of Christmas morning — my sister, brother and I trying to sneak down stairs and see our presents.
4. I would say the best gift I received was my parents love and guidance and also teaching me the reason for the season.
1. Boxing Day was always a little bigger for me with my mom’s side of the family because of so many people.
2. Anything on Kenny Rodgers and Dolly Parton Christmas tape/cd.
3. Not sleeping, always trying to catch Santa stuffing my stocking and leaving presents on the coach in the morning.
4. Watching my daughters enjoy Christmas and being able to host family at our home.
1. Each year (since we left Ohio for the east in 2006) we travel back home to Ohio to my mom’s house and on Christmas Eve we drive around the big city of Newark, Ohio as a family to look at Christmas lights.
2. Merry Christmas Baby by Bruce Springsteen
3. Christmas mornings with the family.
4. My wife (Lori) said “yes” to marrying me on Christmas Eve in 2004, that was my best gift, but when I was 14 I got a set of Terry Holton’s driving colors made to fit me. This was back when I thought I was going to be a catch driver. I was over the moon! I could hear Roger Huston saying “and Jason Settlemoir wins the Little Brown Jug.”
1. Drinking beer.
2. Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.
3. The whole family sitting around a huge table eating a great meal that my mom made.
4. My first Walkman. It was a big deal back then.
1. The children opening presents under the tree on Christmas morning.
2. Christmas in Dixie — Alabama.
3. Ice Skating in Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve.
4. My grandfather gave me a model airplane with a real engine (Fox 35).
1. Every Christmas Eve I have to watch the 1983 classic A Christmas Story, hands down the best holiday movie.
2. Easy — Hark the Herald Angels Sing by Frank Sinatra
3. I remember when I was about 7 or 8, Santa left a note in the tree to go check inside the garage, I was terrified but that quickly changed to happiness when I uncovered my new GT Snowracer.
4. Three Christmases ago my amazing wife surprised me with a brand new Ford F150, but she did say she liked the pyjamas I got her.
1. I run with a Santa hat every Christmas morning before my wife and kids wake up. Then we open presents and make pancakes.
2. Little Drummer Boy – Pentatonix.
3. I am the oldest of 4 kids and we used to wake up as early as possible and meet in my room and try to be quiet and wait for my parents to wake up. Every year we made too much noise and woke them up. We weren’t nearly as smart as we thought we were. Great memories whispering in the dark and thinking we heard Santa and reindeer.
4. At 18, my brother and sisters and I decided to forego Christmas gifts for ourselves and adopted a family. Giving the gifts to a family of 5 in need was worth it.
1. Getting together with a couple old friends from high school and having a couple drinks two or three days before Christmas.
2. Rockin around the Christmas tree (Home Alone version)
3. Probably when we went on a cruise over New Year’s with my mom’s side of the family. About 30 of us. I was about 10.
4. One time my dad bought a snowmobile the day before Christmas. That was the best gift by far. Mom didn’t agree since she shopped around for months before Christmas.
1. Searching with the kids for the ‘perfect’ tree at the cut-your-own farm and then heading home to decorate it with all the kitchy homemade ornaments and keepsakes.
2. Little Drummer Boy, acapella version by Pentatonix.
3. Driving home late on many a Christmas Eve from my grandparents’ house, my dad would pretend to hear Santa’s sleigh bells in the distance, and step on the gas as we turned down the road toward the farm.
4. I can remember one or two exciting gifts over the years, but it’s the extended time with family and the traditions that makes Christmas the best.
1. Watching brother Doug putting the star on the silo.
2. Silent Night.
3. Big McIntosh family gatherings.
4. Black pony when I was 6
1. When our kids where little, we would go down by the Kentucky River and find a nice cedar tree to cut for our Christmas tree. The trick was not to get one out of anyone’s yard.
2. When I was young, there was never a Christmas tree or presents under the tree on Christmas Eve. Our family would go to Midnight Mass and when we got home the six kids would go to bed. In the morning, we would wake up to a decorated tree and all the wrapped presents under the tree. The story was that Santa brought the tree. My parents did not get much sleep on Christmas Eve.
3. My mother would make iced shortbread cookies with us every Christmas.
4. When I was 6, my twin brother and I got a “war board” for Christmas. It was a large topographic board with hills and creeks and Army men that we could move around. We found out 5 years ago that my older sister had given it to us. We always thought it was Santa.
1. Christmas Eve when all our family gets together.
2. The traditional Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
3. Every Christmas, our whole family — mom, dad, 9 kids, got together and unwrapped one gift that we gave to whoever our pick was.
4. Not to sound goofy, but just the memories of growing up with an unbelievable mother, father, brothers and sisters.
1. There are so many holiday traditions in our family — leaving milk and cookies out for Santa, for example — but the enduring one is having dinner after Christmas Eve service at church with friends. About five families participated and we took turns hosting the dinner at our homes. Every family brought something for the table and connecting with these friends really made Christmas special.
2. For me it’s hard to beat Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” but when my kids were young and my mother-in-law was with us, I would sing a raucous version of “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer.” (I must admit I’m partial to the Chipmunks “Please Christmas Don’t Be Late.”
3. When I was a child, my family lived in a big, rambling home built in the 1860s and on Christmas morning I couldn’t wait to sneak down the steps in the morning just to see what goodies were under the tree. The anticipation almost killed me.
4. This is where I learned a lesson from my mother. When I was a young boy, I would tear into the gifts with abandon, as did my older sisters. Then we’d quiz each other on the best gift we each got. I asked my mother once, “What was the best gift you got, Mom?” She said, “Just having my family all together was the best gift I could possibly get.” At the time, I thought it was the most foolish answer I’d ever heard. But when I had children of my own, I realized that it was perhaps the wisest answer I’d ever heard.