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News Nearby: Heidelberg Raceway's Marker To Be Unveiled

The raceway's rich heritage will be honored.

History buffs and car enthusiasts will have plenty to do this weekend when .

The dedication of the blue and yellow Pennsylvania Historical Marker located next to the at Raceway Plaza will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday and include state and local dignitaries along with racing experts.

Heidelberg officials have worked in recent years to have a historical marker erected at the old raceway after learning the last ever Big Top circus in the country closed its tents in the track’s infield.

The track closed in 1973, its stands and press box were shipped to Pittsburgh’s Pennsylvania Motor Speedway in Imperial and big box retailers moved into the open space.

Heidelberg Raceway was finally given historical status late last year and .

Some of the speakers for Sunday afternoon’s unveiling include Andrew Masich of the Pennsylvania Historical Museum Commission, David Kohler of the Pittsburgh Circle Track Club and Steven Witlock of the NASCAR Members Club.

The Circle Track Club will also bring vintage racecars that once sped around Heidelberg Raceway.

Anyone who wants to attend is asked to park at the or Raceway Shopping Plaza.

Heidelberg Borough Manager Joe Kauer, who grew up in nearby Glendale, said he remembers the site more for its retail stores rather than a racetrack. Now there are big box stores such as ,,  and .

That’s why, Kauer said, it is so important to acknowledge the history made on that tract of land.

“It’s nice to see something there to commemorate it because my generation and younger people don’t really know it except for a bunch of department stores,” Kauer told Chartiers Valley Patch.

Kauer said his research showed the track was known for more than just the racing—the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus had its final show under the famous Big Top at the racetrack on July 16, 1956 in which LIFE Magazine reported that “a magical era had passed forever.”

The traveling manpower needed to build the massive tent and numerous other shelters had become too burdensome and expensive.

Soon, the circus moved into new arenas that could support their acts, meaning the last true Big Top happened at Heidelberg Raceway.

“Who would’ve thought a major piece of circus history happened right in our backyard,” Kauer said.

Other history includes four NASCAR races run at the track, including the first one in 1949 that legendary driver Lee Petty won. Besides national races, the speedway was a popular spot for local drivers racing on the half-mile asphalt and quarter-mile dirt tracks.

When the track closed in 1973, the land soon was transformed into a retail shopping center now called Raceway Plaza.

“This roadside historical marker will be a great testament for the ages to recognize the historical significance the Heidelberg Raceway had upon our borough, region, and let alone our country,” Kauer said.

This story was originally published on Chartiers Valley Patch.


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