Since 1992 the voice of the Crawford County Fair in Meadville, Pennsylvania, has been Roger Huston. After Roger retired from day to day announcing at The Meadows, it also left multiple county fairs with spots to fill in the announcer’s booth for the first time in 28 years.

The 2020 Pennsylvania Fair season was already quite different. After getting underway in July after being delayed due to the Coronavirus, most fairs did not have their fair. At most places, it was just racing, and at times there were some food vendors.

Dylan giving Steve Schoeffel driving instructions at Wattsburg.

Meadville was the sixth stop on the circuit in 2020, and with that came 10-year-old Dylan Daugherty’s first opportunity to call a full card of racing.

Dylan’s grandfather Bill Daugherty owns the Daugherty Stables in Mercer, PA, where he has an indoor and outdoor training facility. All of his grandfather’s horses are owned by his grandmother Sue Daugherty. Along with his grandparents’ involvement in the sport, Dylan’s uncle and aunt, Jim and Michelle Daugherty, also train their own horses and operate their stable.

Like most who have family involved with the PA Fairs, Dylan spent summers with his grandfather traveling the circuit. One day Bill Daugherty mentioned to Roger Huston that while he was watching “Meadows Live!” Dylan was calling races off of the TV and was pretty good at it.

Dylan with Roger Huston and Doug Thomas at Waynesburg.

Roger was the announcer at the Meadville, Butler, Washington, and Waynesburg fairs. For anyone who has not been to Meadville, the judges stand hangs from the grandstand roof and is likely the highest on the circuit. There is also a large stage in the infield that prevents the announcer from seeing the horses from around where the 3/16 pole would be to almost the ¼ pole.

In 2017, when Dylan was seven years old, Roger saw him at the fair in Meadville and asked him if he would like to call a race the next day. Dylan took up the offer, and despite never talking on a PA system before, he called a field of 4 Pennsylvania Sire Stakes Group B trotters in the final race of the day. The race was won by All Champy and Roger Hammer in 2:05.

Dylan called a few races with Roger throughout 2018 and into 2019 as well. At the Greene County Fair in 2019, Roger had to catch a flight to Ireland. Dylan knew that Roger had to leave and was on standby. He took the announcers seat next to Presiding Judge Doug Thomas and called the last two races on the card. According to Roger, “He passed with flying colors and was paid $25 for announcing. That made him the youngest ever paid announcer in racing at the age of nine.”

Roger helping Dylan call his first race at Meadville in 2017.

After hearing Dylan at various fairs, Crawford County Fair Director of Harness Racing Lisa Dunn offered Dylan the opportunity to replace Roger as the announcer, starting with the 2020 fair. Lisa’s family has been involved with the Crawford County Fair for many years. Her grandfather was one of the original board members. Her father, and former USTA director, Walter “Boots” Dunn was board president, Director of Harness Racing, and Speed Superintendent up until the time of his death. Lisa’s sister Kathy has been Race Secretary and Clerk of Course at the fair for close to 40 years. Lisa replaced her dad as Director after his passing in 2016.

“I have known him (Dylan) and his family for many years. He is very professional, not just for a kid his age – but for someone of any age! He studies the program ahead of time and comes prepared. He has the right attitude, and I can see him doing this professionally someday if that is what he chooses to do.

Dylan with his grandfather, Bill Daugherty, at The Meadows.

The sky’s the limit for Dylan!” Lisa said.

For his first two full cards, Dylan was dealt 12 PA Sire Stakes races on Thursday and 13 PA Sire Stakes races on Friday. The first of Thursday’s races was won by the person who gave him the job, as Crushworthy won in 2:07:2 with Aaron Johnston in the bike for trainer Lisa Dunn.

Roger had called Dylan the night before the first day to offer some encouragement and to point out certain things, calling it a “pregame Pep Talk by the coach.” Roger said the main thing was helping him deal with not seeing the horses due to the infield stage. He said that when the horses come back into view, it’s like starting all over again. Dylan said that at first he was a little nervous going at two full cards on his own for the first time, but after a few races he was fine.

 After the races, Dylan decided to donate his paycheck from Meadville to the Standardbred Retirement Foundation. He said, “The pandemic was really hard on SRF fundraising, so I wanted to help out the horses.”

Dylan calling races at Shenandoah Downs.

He says SRF and aftercare organizations are important to the industry because they take in retired horses and help find them homes after their racing careers come to an end.

This fall, Dylan also had the opportunity to call the entire card for Virginia’s biggest day of the year, when he called the $350,000 Virginia Breeders Stakes finals at Shenandoah Downs in Woodstock. The 16 race card featured 8 $45,000 stake races for the best 2 and 3-year-old Virginia breds.

With that card at Shenandoah, he has now called races in three states and at six different tracks: Meadville (PA), Butler (PA), a celebrity race at Amulet Farm (PA), Waynesburg (PA), Painesville (OH), and at Shenandoah Downs (VA).

Outside of announcing, Dylan is involved in many other activities and well, both in and out of the racing industry. In the industry, he helps out at his grandparent’s farm, and he is the owner of Sister tothe Queen. The three-year-old daughter of Big Bad John is a two time Ohio Fair Stake winner.

Along with his racing activities, Dylan is also very active outside of the sport as a football, baseball, and basketball player. He also enjoys fishing, swimming, and boating.

He also says, “Harness racing is special because it is a sport that anyone can get involved in if they have a passion for horses like me at ten years old and my Grandpa at 73 years old. Anyone of any age, male, female, etc. can own, groom, train, and drive a horse if they want to. The only thing you have to do is love horses!”

As for getting more young people involved in the industry, Roger says, “If they want to do something, encourage them and help in any way you can. Never be a roadblock to their future. In helping them, don’t overwhelm them. Work with them at their own pace. You want to build up their confidence. In Dylan, he already had the confidence, and that was the biggest problem already solved. Most people, when they hear their voice on the PA, it is delayed for a second and they stop to listen. Dylan never had that problem.”

“While 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, everyone that had the opportunity to hear Dylan call the races this Summer seemed to really enjoy it. So many people, horsemen and fans alike, made comments about what a fantastic job Dylan did. He sounds like he has been doing it for a long time. Hopefully, he continues to get more opportunities to build his confidence and experience. He will definitely be back in the announcer’s booth for us in 2021!” Lisa said.

Roger went on to say, “When a youngster approaches you for help, be a stepping stone in their life. You never know because he or she may be the next Sam McKee. Driver Tyler Smith wanted to be an announcer until he met John Campbell.”


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