The snow and the ice from the latest winter storm caused multiple closures in the Bowie area this weekend. The Bowie Race Course, however, once prided itself on staying open despite harsh winter weather. "When it snows, Bowie goes," was the catch phrase that was used to indicate that horse racing would still take place during bad weather. The reluctance of track official to cancel races at the track once caused hundreds of fans to be stranded at the track overnight.
Despite the reputation, the track did close on occasion, including the days following the "Blizzard of '66," but the track was impacted by more than just the storm that day. An early morning fire destroyed five barns and resulted in the deaths of more than 40 horses.Wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour fanned the flames, and caused the fire to spread quickly.
Firefighters took more than 30 minutes to navigate the snow covered roads along the way to the track. According to Robert Nelson of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department, crews from the station had to push a stranded car from the roadway and shovel their way through three separate snow drifts in order to get their apparatus to the track.
Arriving personnel found a chaotic scene. Flames were shooting high into the air, and panicked horses and ice made for a hazardous situation.
Approximately 100 horses were let loose in an effort to save as many lives as possible. Some horses were later found roaming at the Belair Shopping Center and Glenn Dale Hospital.
This picture was taken on February 4th, 1966 during the first day in operation after the storm. Some fans stood among the snow piles watching the final stretch of the fifth race of the day.