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Katie Giddy from Grand River Raceway on Elora Fergus Podcast (Ep 07)

In this episode, Elora Fergus Podcast host Ryan Joyce chats with Katie Giddy, Director of Hospitality, Sales and Marketing at Grand River Raceway.

Katie and Ryan discuss the local COVID-19 impacts to Elora and Fergus, how Grand River Raceway and Grand River Agricultural Society have been supporting Centre Wellington businesses, plus Katie shares insight into the new six million dollar entertainment facility and more. Listen now!

Here's what we talk about

  • How this pandemic has affected Grand River Raceway (Racing, Gaming, Dining & Entertainment)

  • What to expect moving forward at Grand River Raceway?

  • What technologies you are leveraging in the virtual era (Live racing begins June 5)

  • How it’s affecting the community and how Grand River Raceway is helping

  • Details on the New 6 million dollar Event Facility!!!!

  • Horse Racing Lingo

  • How to name your Winning Horse

  • and more!

Listen to the full episode here:

Listen below to Elora Fergus Podcast Episode with Katie Giddy from Grand River Raceway

Katie Giddy Grand River Raceway

Who owns Grand River Raceway?

About Grand River Raceway

Grand River Raceway is an award-winning horse racing, gaming, dining and entertainment destination located in beautiful Elora. We’re open all year!

Grand River Raceway is owned and operated by The Grand River Agricultural Society. The Grand River Agricultural Society (GRAS) is a not-for-profit corporation, incorporated under the Agricultural and Horticultural Societies Act of Ontario.

Grand River Agricultural Society

Audio Transcript with Katie Giddy

Ryan Joyce: I had only heard rumours about that. I didn't know that was confirmed.

Katie Giddy: It's the best-kept secret. That shouldn't be a secret, Ryan. It's terrible.

Ryan Joyce: Yeah. I've gotta be honest with you. I've written more camels than I've ever written horses. I've only written a horse once, so this is exciting for me cause it's like a little bit of an education lesson.

Ryan Joyce: I want to dive into a little bit of the fun side cause I'm really at a zero education level, for a racing. And I wanted to ask a couple questions about some lingo because I come from an industry that's got its own niche in lingo. So I'm curious if I can get some explanation on some of these words that are,

Meetings & Events Services at Grand River Raceway

Katie Giddy: Oh my goodness. I remember that cows were my thing. Right?

Ryan Joyce: That's great. Well okay, blinkers. To me, that's car talk blinkers. Oh, those. Okay. So they're like,

Katie Giddy: Here we go. No distraction for the horses.

Ryan Joyce: So blinds are, there's a vision from the side, essentially focus. If it sounds like something we all need. Do they have that for the Chrome browser? Is that okay? Chase? What's chase?

Katie Giddy: Oh my goodness. Wrong kind of racing. We're going over fences on that one. So Standardbreds so yeah, that's my, that's my old world. Silly. Oh, female. Young female.

Ryan Joyce: Okay. And that's verbally listening. That's an F not if pH so that we're not talking about Philadelphia here. Silks.

Katie Giddy: Yeah. Oh, my happy place. Really good looking clothing that jockeys or drivers.

Ryan Joyce: Oh, is that okay? That's cool. Okay, great. Sprinter, sprinter.

Katie Giddy: Ooh, Ooh. Going fast.

Ryan Joyce: Oh, okay. And a backstretch this one, I got it.

Have you seen a race at Grand River Raceway? Watch this 2-min race and get face-to-face!

Katie Giddy: Oh yeah. For all the people working from home. Right. And COBIT. Non-approved office. No, that's the that's the nice long run. Usually like furthest away from you on a racetrack.

Ryan Joyce: Oh, that makes a lot of sense. And I know what a stallion is. So what's a stud?

Katie Giddy: Oh, the facility. Like it's more of the place they go for all that kind of action rather than the action.

Ryan Joyce: The motel room. Okay, I get it. So has, has a horse's name ever made you laugh out loud?

Katie Giddy: I'm sure it has, but I'm hoping that you're not asking me to think of it.

Ryan Joyce: Do you recall? I'm sure. Yeah. I think it's as simple as you just named the first childhood crush plus your favourite crunchy food.

So I'm super, super excited to chat with you. Do you ride horses yourself?

Katie Giddy: Yeah, so I grew up, uh, riding horses but not overly formally. I grew up on a farm and actually my godmother's family or all in thoroughbred racing, so I got kind of thrown on and hopefully didn't get thrown off. Um, but the world I'm in now of standard bread is, is new and exciting to me just like it is to you, Ryan.

Ryan Joyce: And how long has the establishment been here in the area? I guess I've been here for 20 plus years, so I know when I graduated high school, I think you were starting to commute.

Katie Giddy: Yeah. So 2004. Um, the move up from Elmira then you space was, uh, the new space was built. And then a little later than that, the evolution from, uh, or to what is now the Grand River agriculture society is the owner of that. Before it was, uh, it was Willett

Ryan Joyce: And the agriculture society technically owns Grand River Raceway how does that work? Could you explain a little bit of that?

Katie Giddy: Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's one of those things that many locals, even myself until recently, probably struggled with a little bit. It's, uh, so the wonderful Grand River agricultural society owns and operates the facility and they're the ones that are really, uh, running the racing. So obviously many of us familiar with Grand River Raceway. Um, but it's the exercise he behind that, that's operating the racing.

Ryan Joyce: How many races do you run a year? Usually a given normal circumstance

Katie Giddy: And yeah, uh, 48, I believe is the magic number.

Ryan Joyce: We'll talk about the pandemic effects in a second, but on a normal year, what kind of traffic do you have come through the facility?

Katie Giddy: Oh thousands and thousands of people were super, super fortunate that, uh, we certainly attract a crowd both locally that want to come out for a fun night of entertainment, but, um, also those amazing diligent race followers as well. So it's, uh, it's, the nice thing about the Raceway is it doesn't matter if you're a race fan and you're there to actually like follow the Cod and understand what's going on or if you're just like looking for a fun night out, she gets, it's definitely, um, a one size fits all and it's family-friendly, which is really, it's really fun and very important for our local community. Right.

Ryan Joyce: Yeah. You really have the full spectrum, racing, gaming, dining and entertainment. How has this affected you?

Katie Giddy: Yeah, so as you can imagine, um, uh, with, with the pandemic and our doors are closed and, um, our doors are also closed for our wonderful tenants, the guys at, uh, elements casino too. So, um, it, it goes without saying lots of high traffic spaces. We've got to keep our, our team and our community very safe so the doors are closed. Um, but what has recently been announced is that we're in a position because we can, uh, physically distance, uh, to actually get the horses back on the track and start racing again. So for us, uh, June 5th is a super exciting day, um, because we will be welcoming, uh, our first official race back that are racecards back that night. So D very different. Um, no spectators, empty Grandstands and you know, I can't imagine what it, what it's like in any entertainment field. We look at all the different sports right now or, um, you know, I was watching American Idol and there's this note you feed off the crowd and you would know this, Ryan and I just, I think it's going to be very, very different. We're certainly going to miss the people, but people can watch from home, which is really neat. Uh, but it's a different world for us for sure.

Ryan Joyce: It sure is. That energy the audience gives will be lacking because it's, it's a spectator sport for reason. That's, that's part of the equation. So, you know, even the racers that everyone's going to feel that. I wonder if the horses, they'll feel it.

Katie Giddy: Yeah. Well, I don't know. I'm a farm kid, so I'm sure they will.

Ryan Joyce: Are you a local Fergus Elora resident? Have you lived here all your life?

Katie Giddy: Well, no, I've actually only been here for the last almost 17 years. Um, I grew up in the Northeast of England and also, yeah, just eat a little bit of a giveaway. Um, and although I grew up on it like I grew up on a farm, um, I was in kind of a metropolitan area. Like I was surrounded by lots of cities and, um, my amazing family used to buy cow was on both sides of the pond. And um, yeah, one day they came back and said, we bought a farm in this wonderful place called Alma. A hundred people. Wow. I was like, what? So, yeah, it's got a long story short. This area has been home to me ever since and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Ryan Joyce: Oh, that is so fun. I have to say, I'm biased too. Like I travel, I used to travel for a living. And so I've been in a lot of places and I always bragged about us and all the places I've ever been was just, I mean, I know we're biased because this is home, but really there's so much to be happy and to share here. I brag about us. I think that's the only way to say it. Well, we have welcomed, we're about the same. I think I'm maybe 20, well, 25 plus years. Certainly do love the area. There's so much to enjoy. And is this, this pandemic is effecting our community is it's affecting everybody. What are some of the things that, uh, that you guys are doing within the community?

Katie Giddy: Yeah, so as we sort of explained that, that uh, the wonderful organization, uh, behind Grand River Raceway is Grand River agricultural society and as a not for profit entity, um, all of the money's given back into the community in one way or another. Whether it's the agriculture community environment, who are some of the, you know, the great things that happen in our space. We, we've been very fortunate to be major donors of things like the hospital, but most recently as a super exciting project for me, uh, the board suggested that we take $25,000, um, because a lot of our mini-grants are on hold right now and do something great for the community. So we were able to purchase gift cuts from, uh, restaurants and foodservice establishment, including the food trucks and all of the other great things that make us, uh, a foodie community.

And, um, you know, this project started and just like the small town, we are right that some of the service clubs came on board. Uh, some wonderful business owners came on board and said, Hey, we'd usually have a, um, like, um, an appreciation event for our clients. We can't do that. Let's do something different. So the pool of money grew to just show it to $35,000 in one way or another. And we then bought these gift cards, uh, as I say, supporting 43 different businesses and then we passed it forward to frontline workers. Um, and again, just like you would expect from our community. Some of them turned around and said, Hey, pass it forward again. So we had some money for the paramedics of our community and they said, thank you, you're amazing, but give it to the food bank. And then, uh, Wellington terrorists, uh, shed this with some of the daycare providers that were providing daycare for central workers. Um, they also shared with social services and then, themselves in the hospital stepped back and said, we'll take less. How about you share the love with some of the retirement residences and longterm care homes? So it was, uh, it's been a fantastic project to be involved with. Yeah,

Ryan Joyce: That is really great. And of course the hospital's opening soon too, and lots of big things happening within the community and then all of a sudden this little bit of a bombshell. So it's great to see so many groups. I have a little bit of an abundance just passing it forward, triple snaps as we do here on the podcast for forever that you guys are doing. That's so great. Just some, do you have any insight on how that's going to impact some of the changes at the Raceway, like the buffet and like all that stuff because all of that's going to eventually have to change as well. Right. Do you have any insight on behind any of that?

Katie Giddy: Yeah, so just like many people right now where, um, every day is a new adventure, new information being released. And of course, we have our ear to the ground waiting for that type of information. Um, so we don't have any firm insight at this time. Uh, obviously we work really closely with our friends at elements casino and our expectation is, you know, absolutely there will be some changes. We just don't know what those are. And, um, you know, we're, we're thrilled to start, uh, at the beginning with spectator free racing and we're starting to take, you know, look forward. Um, but at a pace, that makes sense to keep everybody safe. So, uh, we, we were put on hold, we have our new events center coming. It was on hold with construction for a little while. Um, but the construction is back, back up and going. And, um, I think the one, the one thing that we always hope to be is, is a place for entertainment and fun, but with the utmost respect for safety, our team and our community.

Ryan Joyce: Well, you, you just tipped the next question because I'm super excited to hear about this. Would you tell us about the snow, the new facility? Cause I've heard rumours about it and that's about it.

Katie Giddy: Yes. Well, it's not supposed to be a secret, so we can certainly, uh, shout from the rooftops. A lot of people I think maybe got a touch confused because again, our friends at the casino had an expansion to their casino book. Um, but what, uh, grass and the Grand River agricultural society have done is invested $6 million into a new events space. So the events piece is comprised of a ballroom that can be split into two, uh, for about 300 people, a secondary event space. It's about a hundred, a beautiful corporate boardroom with all of the bells and whistles for technology. And then a lounge area, which will not only do the live broadcasting of racing from across North America but also coach our hosts, some sporting events and some different pieces like that. So it's, um, a little delayed and we, we can't 100% commit, but I'm certainly hoping by, uh, late summer that if the government regulations allowed us to, that way we would be able to open the doors there.

Ryan Joyce: Very, very exciting news. I can't wait to see is there available like plans or like, or, or any visuals of it that we can see somewhere online. Is that available too? Oh yes.

Katie Giddy: Coming, coming very shortly. So I would imagine if everybody wants to, you know, watch this space, which they should always do, uh, to find out what's going on in this community. But, um, in the next four to six weeks, you'll certainly start to see some of those images, drawings, plans. It's you look and feel. Cause uh, I'll give you the inside scoop. There's a little bit of a new look and feel coming for that E-Space too. And um, yeah, we're hoping that we can provide a fun environment for not for profit gala's weddings, you name it. We've all had to um, put a lot of our celebrations on hold for, for obvious reasons this summer. And I just heard there comes a time where we can celebrate with our family and friends and our home is a good place to do that.

Ryan Joyce: I'm super excited to hear about the facility. I know this is a different time, so I wish everybody the best. I am thankful so much for everything you do in the community.

Katie Giddy: Thanks. Well, we're super excited and we just, we look forward to the days that, uh, our wonderful supporters can be onsite, but for now they can certainly watch, I mean, you don't have to be an expert. Anybody can watch from home and maybe have some friendly wagering amongst your family.

Ryan Joyce: They can visit on June 5th. That's really exciting. Thank you so much, Katie. I appreciate your time.

Katie Giddy: Ryan, thank you.

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