What to do for a gorgeous Spring weekend that is close but not too close to D.C.? Take a road trip to Charlottesville for the Foxfield Races. For those of you who are not the cognoscenti regarding this event, the races are held twice a year, but the Spring ones are at the same time as graduation from “The University,” as UVA is known. Therefore, the Spring races are livelier, more crowded, and more fun for people watching.
On the outside ring of the racetrack are the Patrons, or as I say, the civilized viewers. Here is where tailgating takes on a whole new meaning with tents and elaborate tables decorated with stuffed fox and silver flatware. The table clothes are linen and although everyone drinks like a fish, the police rarely have to arrest anyone for drunken behavior.
The inner field of the track is entirely different. Alcohol over-consumption is the norm with lovely twenty-somethings in their Lily sundresses and big hats being stuck next to a taco stand. Trash is everywhere on that side of the track. There are cops everywhere checking IDs and arresting the way-too-over served and hauling them off to a night in jail. The smart ones imbibe just enough to have a hangover the next day, but not too much to attract attention from the authorities.
For some of us, however, the reason to be there is not only to have a wonderful day outside on the grass with close friends and family, but to also see magnificent thoroughbreds racing over hurdles made of timber or brush. (I wish they were ones that collapsed if hit by the horse instead of the permanent jumps they are now. There is a movement afoot to make them break away jumps which I applaud since they are so much safer for the horse.)
If you are lucky enough to have your tailgating spot located on the fence, you not only feel the pounding of the horses’ hooves but can also hear and see their breathing and the determination in their soft brown eyes as they go flying past. They each try their best to win as their jockeys push them onward. It is a magnificent sight to watch the colors of the jockeys fly by. It is a truly great day when no horse is even slightly hurt — just tired from the exertion. They enjoy the bath and rub down after finishing the race.
People watching is also an excellent pastime between the races. There are people of every size, shape, and color. Individuals with tattoos covering their bodies; women in beautiful sundresses with elegant hats; jeans, shorts, flip-flops and high heels. And then there are people who have no sense of style, wearing clothes that should never be matched in the same outfit. Some people toss a ball around as they have no interest in racing. Radios blare and people dance beside the port-a-potties. It’s all there.
People greet perfect strangers and smile and say, “Good morning,” or, “Good afternoon.” Southern hospitality reigns supreme. What more can one want on a sunny late-April day?