The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase bills itself as the Greatest Show On Turf.
But it could also be named the greatest show under a tent.
While the five steeplechase horse races feature some of the top riders and trainers in the country competing for purses totaling $150,000, the real show could be the tailgating at majestic Brooklandwood’s Racecourse in Mineral Springs.
The race is part of the National Steeplechase Association and is just one of many races across the country this year.
Hundreds of tailgate tents, big and small, surround the course and as always patrons started the fun soon after the gates opened at 10 a.m. The fun didn’t stop after the last race as the end of racing signaled the start of the post-race party and dance.
For Holly and Rob Tidwell, tailgating and putting on an award-winning tailgate is an annual event for the Union County residents and their friends in the Weddington Chase neighborhood.
For Julie Galvin and her family and friends, the 2017 Queen’s Cup was their first taste of one of the top sporting and social events in the Southeast. Julie Galvin and her family and friends reserved a spot in the Valley View Tailgate section and they drew tent No. 168.
It was the perfect spot. Not only was their tent next to one of the several crossings to the infield along the mile and 16th race course, their party was right in front of one of the jumps along the course.
“This is perfect with having six kids here,” Galvin said. “We are so excited to be this close and have the horses rush right past us. This is a life event and an experience.”
Galvin, and her friend Jacque Wagner, ordered horse racing themed party supplies and they kept the menu on a hot Saturday afternoon simple in their first go at the Queen’s Cup. In addition to a variety of beverages, friends and family were treated to an array of snack foods perfect for a day that felt more like a early summer day in the Carolinas.
Galvin, who lives in Wesley Chapel with her family, even got some tips for Holly Tidwell.
“I saw her pictures on Facebook and Jacque and I started coming up with some ideas.” Galvin said. “We came up with a horse-racing theme for the kids. We were a little casual this year, but next year we are coming back and we are going to go all out.
“We just did this to relax and enjoy all the fun activities.”
Galvin said tailgating along the rail is a chance to enjoy horse racing in a family-fun atmosphere.
“We had never been to the races but my girls do horseback riding lessons,” Galvin said. “They have been riding for about two years. “They are very into horses and it is something we would like to be even more involved in. We follow the Kentucky Derby and some of the other big races.”
The Tidwell’s and their friends and neighbors rent two tents side-by-side and put on a first-class tailgate in the Meadows tailgate area. In fact, their tailgate picked up winning honors in the Tailgate Contest in 2015 and 2016 in an event that attracted around 15,000 people to this year’s race.
Tidwell organized an all white theme on a hot and humid day. All of the guests were dressed in white and the tailgate featured a buffett of healthy foods catered by Stacks Kitchen in Waxhaw.
And of course, there were plenty of beverages ranging from beer, wine, cocktails and a lot of sweet tea. The group also enjoyed rum popsicles.
Tidwell said she began planning for the tailgate back in February. That planning includes collecting money from her neighbors for tickets and the cost of the tailgate. It took the group more than an hour to setup the tailgate.
In addition to her neighbors, about 100 people will stop by the tailgate.
“This is our fourth year,” Tidwell said. “I’m the social committee chair for our neighborhood and I just invite neighbors. They follow my theme, amazingly, and do such a great job. We just hang out all day. We bring fans and sun umbrellas for the ladies.
“It was so hot last year that we decided to do white this year. We have great shade back here on Meadows Back Row. We just love it. We love the horse races. We stay until 7 p.m. and we shut it down. We are like the last ones to leave. This is the start of the summer for us.”
But the bigger winner Saturday was charity. The 2017 Queen’s Cup Steeplechase benefits the local Alzheimer’s Association and the event has raised over $700,000 for various charities over the years.
Ice It won the The Queen’s Cup MPC Chase feature race in a time of 4 minutes, 19 seconds with jockey Sean McDermont aboard. Ice It took home $45,000 for the first place finish.
McDermont and Fisher also teamed to win the first race and a purse of $18,000.