Steeplechase boasts elaborate tailgates

  • Posted: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 12:06 a.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 12:28 a.m.
Aiken Standard file photo
M.L. Sharp, Susan Kreamer, Donna Ritter and Kaki Lyons enjoyed a lavish tailgate at Spring Steeplechase last year. Rain or shine, tailgaters have fun eating and drinking their way through the races.
Aiken Standard file photo M.L. Sharp, Susan Kreamer, Donna Ritter and Kaki Lyons enjoyed a lavish tailgate at Spring Steeplechase last year. Rain or shine, tailgaters have fun eating and drinking their way through the races.

One fine reason that Aiken’s Triple Crown has fans flocking to the Spring Steeplechase is the fun – the festive atmosphere that can only be found when using fine china when eating out of the back of a pickup.

Tailgating for the races is like that of college football games, but with a lot more hats, doilies and colorful preparations.

“Some people do go all out,” said Derrick McLane of Aiken. “Half of the fun of the Steeplechase is the preparation. Working to see what will make your (tailgate) a little above your neighbor. It’s definitely a driver and a connection point before it starts.”

While some enjoy the simple hot dogs, beer and a tray of chicken fingers, there is a big upswing of sophistication – or at least relative opulence – dealing with the Sport of Kings.

While many of the most spectacular decorations are seen in the exclusive Guarantor’s Tent, many others like to play high society at the Steeplechase as well.

Last weekend at the Aiken Trials, Stacey Wright, who is wintering in Blythe, Ga., turned heads with her party area, set with antique wooden fencing, equine memorabilia and a large horse statue decked out with a feeding bag and a chef’s hat.

Elaborate tailgating spreads with fine linens, silver chafing dishes, wine, flowers and even occasional chandeliers hanging from extended SUV hatches is all likely to be seen again Saturday.

“In the past years, we have done it all: Linens, flowers, chafing dishes and our signature cocktails,” McLane said. “We have always done it up.”

However, despite an early, positive weather forecast, the prospect of showers and a gloomy sky have some scaling back for 2013.

But rain or shine, the tailgaters will go on eating and drinking their way through the races.

Though possibly soggy, some inter-tailgate wagering is also a big source of fun at the track. Rather than pitting skills, most throw in a dollar and pick their horses based on silliness/uniqueness of name, color of silks or just randomly out of a hat.

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