News & Politics

A Day in the Country

A first-person tour through the spectacle that is Virginia Gold Cup.

Our favorite Gold Cup tailgaters, Ahmed Hasan and his tiny camera-shy twin Faris Fadul, smile before heading to the rails to check out the horsies. Photograph by Laura Wainman.

Washingtonians made the hour-long drive from the city to The Plains, Virginia, Saturday to dress in pastels, play games, and drink outside . . . I mean, watch some occasional horse racing.

Saturday marked the 87th running of the Virginia Gold Cup races, which brought out the hordes for an afternoon outside that was (luckily) gorgeous and rain-free. We stopped by Great Meadow to take a look at the ponies and, more entertainingly, the people watching them.

On the west side of the track, we found the family area, with small tailgates providing simple finger foods, mimosas, lemonade, and other standard cookout indulgences. Adults and their children played ladder ball and cornhole or sat on blankets or folding chairs and chatted. Though the actual watching of the horses was limited, the west side lawn hosted wholesome fun and an opportunity for young and old to dress up and play.

A 20- to 30-minute walk around the perimeter to the north, though, brought us to a different world–first to corporate tents and ultimately to University Row, where the debauchery level steadily increased throughout the day.

An array of company-sponsored tailgates offered catered meals–the group that brought in Chick-Fil-A looked to have the happiest guests–along with beverages of all types. Further from the north side, University Row offered pulled chicken, meatballs, and a host of sides and desserts, which was meant to soak up the all-you-can drink beer and liquor to which $135 tickets entitled guests. There was an afternoon snack of chicken nuggets and mac and cheese (because drunk adults turn in to elementary schoolers, perhaps?) that preceded the bus ride home, but not before games of flip cup and naps in the grass, for some.

This side of Gold Cup was an opportunity to see many young adults throw caution and decorum to the wind, eschew the stresses of their everyday lives, and act foolishly. It was no place for children or those who like peace and quiet or actually planned to watch horses race, but there’s no arguing that attendees had a great time–or that they needed the bus rides home that kept them from getting behind the wheel once the day ended.