It may have been delayed by several months and moved to a new location, but the annual Night at the Races fundraiser for the Mitchell Area Safehouse returns Thursday evening at the Starlite Drive-Inn theater in Mitchell.
Gates for the event open at 6 p.m., with races expected to start between 7:15-7:30 p.m.
Organizers said the delay and move was made due to the outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this year and out of a desire to keep participants and the community at large safe. But they kept their eyes open for an opportunity to continue the tradition, as the needs of the Mitchell Area Safehouse did not stop when much of the world did with the arrival of the global pandemic.
“We’re excited to move forward,” said Ashley Hobbs, development director at the Mitchell Area Safehouse. “We’re probably the first non-profit to host a fundraiser, and we need it and need the support of the community.”
The Mitchell Area Safehouse works to provide emergency and transitional housing for adult survivors and their children escaping domestic violence or sexual assault. Trained advocates provide support and referral services for survivors of abuse. The safehouse serves residents in Davison, Aurora, Hanson, Sanborn, Douglas, Jerauld, Hutchinson and Miner counties.
Hobbs noted that the Mitchell Area Safehouse has served nearly as many individuals this year already than it did all of last year, indicating that the specter of domestic violence did not disappear as COVID-19 shuttered businesses and disrupted life around the world.
“A lot of people don’t want to think about domestic violence, but it was probably happening more because people were trapped at home with their abuser,” Hobbs said. “We needed to figure out a way to do this, because we couldn’t have it in March.”
The event which was originally scheduled to be held at the Highlands Conference Center, allows people to bet on pre-recorded horse races and win a part of the proceeds from their bet while the other part of the winnings go to the Mitchell Area Safehouse. The event usually brings in about $25,000 a year for the organization, Hobbs said. This will be the seventh time the organization has hosted the fundraiser.
Postponing the popular event was not an easy choice, Hobbs said.
“It was really disappointing and kind of shocking because we made the decision at the last minute possible,” Hobbs said. “We didn’t know what to expect, but we knew we wouldn’t have good attendance (in March).”
There will be some changes to the event this year. Tickets are $15 at the gate and the price includes a large popcorn. The concession stand will be open, and a variety of activities will also be held, including raffles, miniature golf, and a beer garden. Runners will come to individual cars to take bets on the races.
Hobbs said attendees are encouraged to wear a mask, though it is not required, and to social distance as much as possible. Lawn chairs are welcome, but Hobbs said that all Starlite Drive-Inn COVID-19 rules will remain in place for the event. Anyone experiencing illness or symptoms should not attend, she said.
The races are expected to wrap up around 10 p.m.
“People are welcome to stay in their car or they can bring lawn chairs or be in the back of their pickup or whatever they choose to do,” Hobbs said. “We usually have a great turnout, and sometimes tables get really rowdy at the Highland. I’m hopeful we’ll have some horn honking and some festive spirits.”
Hobbs hopes attendees get into the spirit and come out to support the Mitchell Area Safehouse. With the pandemic altering life for everyone around the world, the organization needs the support of the community now more than ever.
“There is a need for our services, and domestic violence unfortunately doesn’t stop. It doesn’t care if people are sick or not,” Hobbs said.