Tailgating, Fashion And Horses Highlight Successful Queen’s Cup Steeplechase

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The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase bills itself as the Greatest Show On Turf.

And They’re Off! One of the five races held during the Queen’s Cup.

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.

And They’re Off! One of the five races held during the Queen’s Cup.

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.

The Old Hilltop area of the infield at the 2017 Queen’s Cup is a little more laid back than the rest of the of them.

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.”

And They’re Off! One of the five races held during the Queen’s Cup.

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.

Nicole Hatfield, Honorable Secretary of the Club (front), and Jeanine Devaney, Joint Master, are both members of the Mecklenburg Hounds. They received high fives from the crowd while parading with the hounds during the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Queen’s Cup.

“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.

Jay Thomas, Joint Master and Huntsman, of the Mecklenburg Hounds, leads the hounds on a parade during the opening ceremonies of the 2017 Queen’s Cup. Jeanine DeVaney, Joint Master explains, “The Mecklenburg Hounds has participated in the opening ceremonies since the inception of the Queen’s Cup. This has been MHI’s 60th anniversary as Charlotte’s local fox hunting club. Its purpose is for the thrill of the chase and preservation of open lands in our surrounding counties.”

“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.”

And They’re Off! One of the five races held during the Queen’s Cup.

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.

Ladies line up for the 2017 Queen’s Cup Hat Contest. There is a Womens, Mens, and Childrens Division with prizes awarded to the best hand decorated hat.

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.

Holly Tidwell setup an elaborate tailgate at the Queen’s Cup.

“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.”

Linsey Scott & Lysette Lam, 1st year volunteers, sell raffle tickets and other fundraising items. Proceeds of the sales goes to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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.

Emceed by WSOC anchor, Scott Wickersham (behind the fence with the microphone), the 2017 Queen’s Cup Hat Contest is ready to begin.

McDermont and Fisher also teamed to win the first race and a purse of $18,000.

Cathy Nixon, of the Grandfather Mountain Highlander Pipe Band from Linville, NC, warms up her pipes before the band marches. The Grandfather Mountain Pipe Band is an award winning band that competes in the Eastern US and in Scotland. They have been coming to the Queen’s Cup for about 16 years.
Bill Deese, with the Mineral Springs Fire and Rescue, poses with his truck. One of the many volunteers who makes the Queen’s Cup a success, the Mineral Springs Fire and Rescue has been supporting the Cup since the beginning, Deese says, “I enjoy it.”


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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at ripig1979@yahoo.com.