Horse Racing & Baseball
In 1885 a great deal of interest was being generated in horse harness racing. A group of gentlemen formed the Dixon Driving Park Association. The group purchased a track of 20 acres from Peter N. Peters. They proceeded to construct a horse racing track and pavilion, which in 1886 became the site of the May Day celebrations in Dixon from then on. The May Day celebration was usually a 2-day event held on the first day of May.
The Dixon Chamber of Commerce, organized in 1909, encouraged the May Day celebration to be held on the weekend closest to the first of May.
Solano County Fair
In 1916, Dixon became the site of the Solano County Fair, indicating what a popular event horse racing had become. Even with Dixon maintaining one of the best horse race tracks around, the event was still called Dixon May Day. In 1933, the State of California legalized race horse betting. The May Day manager, Watson Kilkenny, organized with the California Horse Racing Board that Dixon receive a share of the parimutuel wagering money.
By 1936, the Dixon Fair became the 36th District Fair Association. This type of horse racing began in Dixon by 1937 and races were held for two days each year with over $41,000 handled in parimutuel betting. In fact, even when the State Racing Board closed and blacked out most other race tracks after Pearl Harbor and World War II began, the races here in Dixon continued. By 1942, the horse races in Dixon were a major California event with people coming from all over.
In the early Dixon days, next to horse racing, baseball was the favorite sport. In fact, baseball would run eight months out of the year. Baseball in those days ran in families. By the late 1880s and early 1900s, it was the Rohwer and Van Sant families who brought fame to Dixon. There were five Rohwer boys and three Van Sant boys, who played local and league baseball, playing on dirt fields and traveling by horse-drawn vehicles to games.