“It’s an adrenaline rush,” says Vern Nolin, who came in eighth place overall in last year’s races. “We call it the half-mile of hell.”
Start the spectating at one of the grandstand’s two restaurants, one of which offers great views of the track. The upscale Lazy S offers fine dining with many fresh, local ingredients, and the Clubhouse provides a diverse buffet that leaves little room for dessert.
While the story of the chuck wagon’s origins vary from teller to teller, the modern-day event is exhilarating to watch. The race begins at a standstill and consists of four teams, each of which has two outriders on single horses (who race alongside the wagon) and one driver. One outrider throws a barrel into the back of the wagon, then the entire team races to complete a tight figure eight, followed by a dash around a 2,640-foot oval track. As the teams drive toward the finish at 40 miles per hour, those in the stand can feel the rumble of the horses’ pounding hooves coursing through their bodies.
After the races, stick around the grandstand for the evening show, where contortionists, acrobats and nonstop pyrotechnics, as well as 140 children from Canada who have spent months training, dazzle the crowd with a plot-driven circus show as the sun slowly sets.
For those who have enough energy left, the Nashville North tent hosts parties late into the night, with a bar and top-notch live music for the revelers to enjoy.