Category Archives: Grand Prairie

Editior’s Corner: Lone Star Park offers great races and big smiles

By Stacey Doud

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I had the good fortune to get a behind-the-scenes tour at Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie, which hosts horse races and special events for the city. I was there for the annual Lone Stars and Stripes Celebration for the 4th of July, but the tour overshadowed any fireworks display I could see.

My tour guide was Communications Manager Diantha Brazzell, who has been employed at the park since 1997. She said that the attendance on Independence Day is usually their busiest day of the year, with crowds ranging from 13,000 people to 15,000 people. Brazzell said that their record was in 2000, with over 33,000 people in attendance.

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Photo courtesy of Lone Star Park

The celebration is as old as the Race Park. Every year, more family-friendly activities are added, such as a Family Fun Park with bounce houses, face painters, tattoo artists, pony rides and a petting zoo to make sure everyone of every age has a great time.

Lone Star Park opened in 1996, just in time for the Kentucky Derby. While “betting on the ponies” had been legal in Texas since 1987, Lone Star Park was one of the three “Class One” horse tracks to open in the state. This means that they may host unlimited races, as compared to Class Two, which only gets 60 racing days per year. The other Class One tracks are Retama Park in Selma and Sam Houston Race Park in Houston.

“Before I worked here, I came out to bet on the Kentucky Derby, back in 1996. I drove over an hour to get here, but I was turned away at the gate because they were already sold out!” Brazzell said. “Since the Park was so new, lots of people were coming to bet on the Derby for the first time.”

The main building opened the next year in 1997, and the original structure, which had been known as the “Post Time Pavilion” was redesigned into the “Bar & Book,” a seven-day-a-week simulcast wagering facility that features races from around the world as well as other sports, which is in operation to this day.

HorseParade2Brazzell took me up to the Penthouse floor to her office, where we chatted about the park. She suddenly stopped talking and looked at the television in her office. She had her eye on a particular filly named Lay M Out, and while she hadn’t placed any bets, she wanted to see how the horse performed. It came in first place.

After the race was over, Brazzell filled me in on some of the struggles the park has been facing. The owners of quality horses sometimes go to Oklahoma or Louisiana to run their stock because they can make more money in those locations due to gaming (gambling casinos) being on the premises. Currently, that type of gambling is illegal in Texas. Fortunately, there is hope on the horizon.

“With the bills that recently passed, that the governor signed last week, one of them is that it takes the tax dollars from any equine-related products, such as feed, hay and tack, and it puts it into the fund for the Texas Racing Commission to divvy out. It will be split between the four major tracks in Texas. The law goes into effect on September 1, and it’ll take some time to accumulate money. But it’s positive news, and I’m so excited because it’ll increase our proceeds and bring in better horses,” Brazzell said.

Part of my tour was to go into the judges’ room, where too-close-to-call races are re-watched on a special computer so that a winner can be determined. We were seven floors up, so the view was breathtaking. I could see the whole track, the paddocks and the public area below, where families gathered to eat and enjoy the races.

Lone Star Park at Grand Prairie is open seven days a week. Parking is free (except for special events) and admission is $5 per person.

Editor’s Corner: Officer’s death is another blow to kindness and compassion for others

By Stacey Doud

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A Grand Prairie police officer, AJ Castaneda, age 38, was killed around 10:30am on June 7 while checking radar speeds on the shoulder of the George Bush Turnpike. A 17-year-old driver hit the officer’s vehicle and the officer fell off of the overpass onto the lower highway, about 20 feet below. He died at an Arlington hospital about 30 minutes later.

The person who came upon the accident and reported it was an officer from another city. He had the brains to get into Castaneda’s patrol car and radio directly to Castaneda’s agency in Grand Prairie to let them know what was going on.

I’ve been a law enforcement supporter for many years now, simply because I know I could not to that job, so I admire those that can.

In today’s climate, I often get criticized for supporting the cops; however, I am not a blind follower. I realize that there are bad apples in the policing field, just as in any area of employment. I feel shame when I hear about a cop abusing his or her privileges as peacekeepers.

That being said, I attended a candlelight vigil for Castaneda on June 9, which was held in front of Grand Prairie’s Public Safety Building.

I had never met Castaneda, but when something tragic like this happens, I like to lend my support, even if it’s providing another warm body at an event.

I got there a bit early and parked. As I walked up to the gathering spot, I was overwhelmed with the crowd. Literally hundreds of people, young and old, showed up to pay respects to this officer that I knew nothing about.

As I listened to the speakers, I came to understand that Castaneda was an exceptional officer. He raised money to provide meals every Thursday to the youth of an impoverished neighborhood in Grand Prairie. He saved the life of a choking baby. He earned medals and awards too countless to list.

The question everyone asks themselves when a good person dies popped into my head: Why him? Why him and not the cop that sits in the back of a parking lot all day or night watching movies? But does anyone’s life count “more” than another’s?

The wind was blowing pretty hard that night, and the candles wouldn’t stay lit. The chief suggested that folks turn on the flashlights on their phones instead. What resulted was a beautiful sea of light to honor this exceptional officer.

I cried and cried – not because I knew Castaneda – but because yet another person who had compassion and went above-and-beyond had been taken way too soon. Those traits are hard to find these days.

Remember when customer service existed everywhere? Remember when employees cared about your experiences in their stores? Remember when people would stop to help other folks in distress?

Those days are long gone, and so to lose someone who loved his job, had compassion for his fellow human beings and went farther than necessary to give a helping hand to people he didn’t even know was just another blow to the things we used to cherish, and want to cherish again.

RIP AJ Castaneda. End of Watch: June 7, 2019

They’ll take it from here, brother.

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North Texas Couple Tells Stories ‘Behind the Texas Badge’ in New Book

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AC Christy Martinez (Published Tuesday, July 24, 2018; NBCDFW)

Behind every badge is a story about the person who wears it.

One North Texas couple went across the state to gather those stories for their new book, aptly named “Behind the Texas Badge.”

For Grand Prairie Assistant Police Chief Christy Martinez, that story was born from a desire to be a force for good after a brush with tragedy at 16 years old.

“I hope to bring the same type of energy — a sense of hope that was quickened to me that particular night,” Martinez said.

Read more from NBCDWF…

Grand Prairie PD needs your help!

35522846_10155586193162039_2005631048695676928_oThe Grand Prairie Police Department is actively investigating an incident involving a police impersonator who stopped a female driver and sexually assaulted her during the encounter.

On Saturday morning at approximately 1:00 A.M., a female motorist was pulled over in the 4000 block of East Jefferson by what was described as a black SUV equipped with red and blue lights around the front fender.

The impersonator directed the victim to the backseat of his vehicle where he then sexually assaulted her.

The impersonator is described as a Hispanic male, approximately 25 years old, 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 250 pounds with black slicked back hair, a mustache with stubble on his face and thick eyebrows. The impersonator was wearing a black tactical-style uniform with a badge and duty belt.

Anyone who recognizes this composite sketch of the suspect or the described vehicle is asked to call the Grand Prairie Police or Crime Stoppers at 972-988-8477(TIPS). Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward for information leading to the arrest of this suspect.

www.GPCrimeStoppers.org