The weekend will be doubly special for Bangor Raceway race director Fred Nichols, and not just because it’s the fourth day of the fall racing schedule at Bangor Historic Track.
Nichols, who was the raceway’s general manager for 15 years, will be inducted into the New England Harness Writers Association Hall of Fame and will also have the new barn at Bangor Raceway dedicated in his name on Saturday.
“It was quite a surprise actually. Usually you have to die before someone does something like that for you,” said Nichols, who has worked at Bangor Raceway for 17 years. “It’s very nice to be a part of something like that as a representative of the industry. I was certainly surprised when I found out a couple months ago.”
Nichols will be part of the 32nd Hall of Fame Class along with fellow inductees William Parker Jr., Maine House Representative and harness racing advocate Don Marean, NEHW chapter secretary-treasurer and U.S. Harness Writers Association national director Robert Lieberman, horse racing artist Nicholas W.S. Leighton, and trainer-driver Ed Bither.
The Stratford, Conn., native is credited for being one of the main individuals responsible for keeping harness racing active in Bangor when the City of Bangor opted to stop running the 127-year-old raceway in 1993.
“I had horses that were racing there and the city announced they were getting out of the business,” Nichols recalled. “I was one of a group of 10 along with Tom Sawyer and some others with a vested interest in keeping the track going, so we made a purchase proposal to the city. Our first proposal was rejected, so we submitted a second after making an arrangement with Sonny Miller for a local off-track betting parlor at Miller’s and the second was accepted.”
It’s that effort that Nichols is most personally satisfying.
“I thought at some point, looking around the neighboring areas where slots had turned the business around, if we hung around long enough, we could turn it around and we did,” Nichols said. “Keeping it open is what I’m most proud of.”
The barn dedication ceremony will be held at noon Saturday at the track and the induction ceremonies will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Hollywood Slots Hotel and Casino. Both events are open to the public.
Other harness racing names such as William Varney, Tom Dillon, Walter Hight, Shawn Gray, Heath Campbell, Valerie Grondin, Todd Whitney, Heidi Rohr, Kermit Allen, Richard Huntley, Ed Reynolds, Lew Hayden, George Rolleston, William D. Ellis, Stephen Mahar and Archie McNeil.