Herb Moering /Contributor
(Published Aug. 30, 2007, 11:38 a.m.)
The horsy set will reign at the 158th Walworth County Fair on Labor Day weekend. And leading the parade is "Ned," the fair foundation's cuddly mascot horse keepsake chosen for the six--day Boot Scoot and Boogie event, and named after long--time trainer Ned Livingston.
Livingston, now 88 and living at the Veterans Home in Union Grove, was a fixture around the fairgrounds track in Elkhorn for more than 50 years and just an all--around nice guy, according to friends and acquaintances.
Danny Epp, of Elkhorn, who trains horses at the Elkhorn track, found a close friend in Livingston when he came here 22 years ago.
"I knew him before I came here, but not personally," said Epp, who had earlier trained horses for 10 years in Aurora, Ill. "Ned was a good man. Never had anything bad to say about anybody."
Former secretary of the county fair, Judy Vance, remembers Livingston was "like a comfortable old shoe," who used to come into the office just about every morning to have coffee. "I think his stops for coffee started with (predecessor) Elmer (Antcliff). He talked about what the horsemen were doing, what was going on at the barns and elsewhere on the fairgrounds.
Vance first met Livingston during her 13 years as a checker at the old National Food Store downtown where her husband, Larry, was produce manager. So they were already friends by the time Judy became fair secretary.
"Ned was a friend of every fair secretary," Vance added. Livingston continued to frequent the secretary's office even after Vance left her position and he was retired. Frank Eames, former publisher of the Elkhorn Independent newspaper, said he enjoyed working with Livingston on the county fair's race programs. Ned was appointed superintendent of speed in 1965 for the fair's harness races, a position he held for many years.
His many years of involvement at the fairgrounds earned him a selection as one of the two honorary marshals for the 1989 Walworth County Fair. The other honorary marshal that year was Joe Breidenbach, long--time worker in the treasurer's office during the fair and brother--in--law to Livingston.
Breidenbach said that while Ned was growing up he worked for his dad, Harry, who had once been sheriff in Grant County, and his uncle, Charlie, a clothing firm vice president in Chicago, who both had horses over the years. Ned told a daily newspaper reporter in 1991 that he and his dad always preferred to buy rather than breed their horses. That way they could choose what they wanted rather then having to settle for what was bred.
Livingston raised his best horse, Jet Ace, from a colt for his uncle Charlie and O.B. Henson. Jet Ace carried the green and orange colors of Livingston Stables to some hefty purses in the early 1960s on the coast--to--coast circuit of pari--mutuel betting tracks.
Livingston drove the Florican--sired colt to a record 2.02.4 minute mile on the Lexington, Ky. track, which Livingston termed "good speed for any trotter." He said that horse had a really smooth gait, as smooth as water.
Ned was outside the horse field only a couple of times. The first instance was during a short stint in a Woodstock, Ill. factory and during three years of World War II when he was overseas in the Army's signal corps in the Pacific. Livingston earned a Bronze Star before he was mustered out in late 1945.
"It was probably 1946 when he rejoined his dad," Briedenbach said. "You might say Ned turned a hobby into a regular business. It was not a well--paying occupation, but it was sufficient for someone who was single and loved harness racing."
Livingston, who took over the business after his father died of a heart attack at the Elkhorn track, retired for a few years during the 1970s. In the interview he said he missed the horses.
The most difficult times probably came from the horse barn fires at the fairgrounds. In the first one, Breidenbach said his brother--in--law lost a lot of tack equipment. In another blaze a groom, "Smoky" Anderson, died. Epp said the 1992 fire that destroyed the west side barn wiped out all his horses and Ned's.
Eames recalled the time in the 1980s when he was on an ambulance run to the track because Livingston had fallen off a sulky during training and had a broken ankle.
In Livingston's later years Epp recalled that Livingston and Stan "Boots" Smith had a horse together that they raced at various fairs and possibly at the Quad City Downs track in Moline, Ill. He also remembered that some 20 years ago they won at the Elkhorn fair. Epp said he believes he saw Livingston race for the last time shortly after at Beaver Dam, which was part of the fair harness racing circuit.
But, Livingston continued the training, accompanying horses he had trained to various tracks including the Chicago area ones of Maywood Park, that his uncle helped establish, Sportsman's Park and Hawthorne. At one time in the 1960s Livingston was training 12 trotters and pacers at his fairgrounds stables for various owners including his uncle Charlie, Dr. J. Howard Young and Bob Clark, both of Elkhorn, and Willard Olson, of Delavan.
"He later trained horses for Dan Seymour and Hollie Ward (two Elkhorn businessmen)," Breidenbach noted.
"I think the last horse he had (trained) was a trotter belonging to Tom Morrissey, from Lake Geneva," Epp said.
"I found I could learn a lot from older guys, and Ned told me a lot of things so I learned from him," Epp said. "He had been around longer than anybody."
Livingston's interest in horses and harness racing never waned. Even after he went into the nursing home, Epp said that for a time he would call about twice a week to get the latest news about what was happening in harness racing and around the horse barns.
"He was a fun guy to have around," Epp concluded.
--- 8:30 a.m., S.M.I.L.E.S. open horse show, Horse Arena (all day)
--- 10:30 a.m., class in old schoolhouse, Park
--- 10:30 a.m., meat animal sale, Wiswell Center
--- 11 a.m., pig races, Kiddieland
--- 11 a.m., Carnival (reduced ride prices), Midway until 6p.m.,
--- 12 p.m., Nick's Kids Show, Barnyard Adventure Stage
--- 12:30 p.m., chain saw artist, Dave Watson, Kiddieland
--- 1 p.m., pig races, Kiddieland
--- 1 p.m., horseshoeing demo, Barnyard Adventure Stage
--- 1 p.m., Little Britches contest, Activity Center
--- 2 p.m., Nick's Kids Show, Barnyard Adventure Stage
--- 2:30 p.m., chain saw artist, Dave Watson, Kiddieland
--- 2:30 p.m., cream puff eating contest, Barnyard Adventure Stage
--- 3 p.m., meat animal sale of champions, Wiswell Center
--- 3 p.m., pig races--Kiddieland
--- 4 p.m., Nick's Kids Show, Barnyard Adventure Stage
--- 4:30 p.m., chain saw artist, Dave Watson, Kiddieland
--- 5 p.m., pig races, Kiddieland
--- 5:30 p.m., Bosworth family lumberjack show, Kiddieland
--- 6 p.m., Nick's Kids Show, Barnyard Adventure Stage
--- 6:30 p.m., chain saw artist, Dave Watson, Kiddieland
--- 7 p.m., pig races, Kiddieland
--- 7:30 p.m., Bosworth family lumberjack show, Kiddieland
--- 12:30 p.m., Trinity Irish Dancers
--- 2 p.m., Don Peachy's Polka Band
--- 7 p.m., Piles of Rhythm Band
--- 1 p.m., harness races
--- 7:30 p.m., The Beach Boys
Shuttle buses are available from downtown Elkhorn on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
--- 8:30 a.m., Dairy--Holsteins, Activity Center
--- 10 a.m., rabbit showmanship, Small Animal Barn
--- 10:30 p.m., meat animal sale, Wiswell Center
--- 3:30 p.m., rabbit carcass, Small Animal Barn
--- 4 p.m., rabbit pet class, Small Animal Barn
--- Open class: clothing, home Furnishings, sheep
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