On the 101 Things to Do Before You Die list is Thing to Do #39: Go to the Races. I originally crossed off this item back in January 2007 and then enjoyed doing it again when we went to the Virginia Derby in 2009. We weren’t able to go back last year but made it a priority to get there this year.
This year the races didn’t start until 5:00pm, probably done to beat the heat of the day. It meant we didn’t have to get on the road as early and it was more pleasant seeing the races under the lights of the track rather than under the burning sun, but it also meant that we didn’t get home until 1AM.
We got a table all to ourselves just as we did in 2009 with all of the trappings: an all you can eat buffet of Southern cuisine (barbecue, fried chicken, fried shrimp, slaw, baked beans, hush puppies, banana pudding, and sweet tea) and drink tickets. I do have to say that I’m glad of my Flying Saucer beer challenge for finally allowing me to be the kind of gal that can drink beer out of red solo cups like everyone else, rather than being the one chick that has to drink a vodka cocktail. It makes life easier…and cheaper.
As far as the races were concerned, I managed to break even for the day which I always consider winning when it comes to gambling. If I managed a bit of entertainment for free, then I feel I came out on top. That, and I never expect to win so when I do, it’s that much better.
While others may have been there for the races, I was there for the hats. Back at Christmas, I bought Lydia and myself the most wonderful Derby hats ever for the express purpose of wearing them to this event. There were seven different hat competitions and Lydia and I decided to enter the “Southern Belle” Hat competition. After the fifth race we were instructed to make our way down to the Winner’s Circle for judging.
With 50 or so other ladies, Lydia and I gathered around the judges, two girls and a guy. They would choose 10 finalists that would then be announced and shown on the track’s “jumbotrons” and 3 winners would be chosen from these 10. The judges began pointing to girls, choosing their finalists “Green hat. Blue hat.” etc. For their fourth choice, they shouted “Pink hat with bow!” pointing out Lydia. After some jumping and cheering, Lydia went down to the front with the other finalists.
Increasingly the mob of women began crushing towards the judges, probably with the hope of getting in front of them and giving them a better view of their hats. I stayed near the back, not enjoying pushing, elbowing throngs. After a bit, there was only one slot left and the two female judges, clearly having difficulty deciding, asked the man to choose. With no hesitation he pointed at me and said “Pink hat in back!” and in my excitement I stepped on the toes of the girl beside me. Shouting an apology, I ran down to where Lydia was and we hurried up the steps to the stage.
After a few photographs, a woman came up to us and immediately set about telling us what was coming next. I felt like I was in a pageant. “Alright ladies, when the camera turns to you, I want to see Smiles! Attitude! Waving! You’re our Southern Belles and we need to see lots of personality!”
And then we were up on the jumbotrons, smiling and waving like we were beauty queens. I tried not to look at the screens and instead Lydia and I just kept laughing. The finalists were introduced and then they announced the winners, all three of which had “the complete package,” having dressed from head to toe in a carefully chosen ensemble.
For all of the VA Derby Hat Contest participants, here is their Facebook album: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=118618478216913#!/media/set/?set=a.10150246252266892.327493.144100551891&type=1 (We’re about photo 90)
Lydia and I raced back to the boys to see if they had seen us up on the screens (I was convinced they had missed the whole thing by going to the bathroom or something) but they had seen us and said that the cameras had been pretty much on Lydia and myself the whole time. We may not have won, but you would have thought we had by the way we were acting. I had just really wanted to wear a big hat but this was just icing on the cake.
We had a lot of fun, enjoyed ourselves, didn’t lose too much money, and got to wear big hats. What more could you ask of a day at the races?