Entertainment & Events

Dispatches from Del Mar – Recapping Opening Day, Microbrew Festival

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The first race of the 2009 season is off! (from 'delmarconcerts' via Flikr)

The first race of the 2009 season is off! (from 'delmarconcerts' via Flikr)

Ed. – Our resident Del Mar correspondent, Brandon Elliott, will be writing a weekly “Dispatches From Del Mar” column for the rest of the racing season. His first installment covers the notorious sights and scenes of opening day at Del Mar, in addition to last weekend’s chili, microbrew and local music festival.

Opening Day 2009

The Sights:

Opening Day was, indeed, a sight to behold. There were the skydivers that landed on the track before the first race. There was the record crowd (44,907) that made placing a bet or a drink order feel like a cattle call. There was the couture. And there were the hats. One style in particular – a large black rimmed hat with a white trim – had to have been work by at least half a dozen women. Made me glad I left mine at home.

There were celebrities. Around the fourth race, my friend Nicole and I made our way up to the Turf Club to see who we could find. Everyone in the spot looked like they had just walked off the set of MTV’s “The Hills.” We made a joke that we’d probably run into Audrina “Bikini Teriyaki Burger” Patridge. And then, as if by magic, she appeared.

Fully clothed, I didn’t totally recognize her at first. Can you really blame me, though?

Also spotted at Opening Day: Former NBA great John Salley, former relevant actress Bo Derek, and Carrie “Yay, Opposite Marriage!” Prejean. I hear that the former Miss California sang the National Anthem at the start of the day.

Thank God I was still stuck in traffic.

There was the hat contest. It was won by some guy who had fashioned a 10-foot-tall hot air balloon out of brightly colored sticks and cloth. There were horses on it, too, and he wore it on his head. This, apparently, qualifies as a hat, and he won the cash. The runner-up – a woman in a gorgeous white hat decorated with a potpourri of fresh flowers – seemed unamused.

The Scene:

When you think of Opening Day – especially if you’ve never been – a few words probably come to mind. Class. Glamour. Elegance.

If you were actually at Opening Day this year, you know that while the day might have started out that way, it certainly didn’t end in that fashion. Pro tip, ladies: If you’re going to totter around all day on 8-inch heels while you wear a dress that barely conceals your special parts, you might want to go easy on the booze. The ensemble’s not going to hold together well when you’re trying to take a drunken pee in the parking lot bushes.

I actually counted six – six – girls having to be physically carried out of the exits by their boyfriends. And that was only within the 15 minutes it took me to get out of the gates.

Something also tells me that Bing Crosby if he wasn’t busy spitting game at one of the unconscious blondes – wouldn’t have been too amused by the looks of the grandstands when everyone left. The place was destroyed. Beer bottles, champagne glasses, and tons of food wrappers were everywhere, even in some of the fountains in the plaza courtyard. I mean, I may be starting to sound like an old man here, but didn’t anyone teach these kids how to use a trash can? Or a bathroom? Or dress properly? Or to GET OFF MY LAWN?!?

And then everybody took a nap and a Red Bull and hit the Del Mar bars. L’Auberge held a rooftop party, with thumping techno echoing into the night sky. (You really haven’t heard “Poker Face” until you’ve heard it bouncing off of the ionosphere.) Our little group settled in at perennial favorite Jimmy O’s, where the drinks are cheap and the staff is awesome. It was a full house, but a great crowd, and an awesome spot for an after-race party. Even a few of the jockeys showed up. And the bartender gave them each a thimble full of beer, patted them on the head, and told them to run along back to their tree.

I kid, I kid. Truthfully, a jockey will drink you under the table.

The Take:

I made $57 bucks off the races on Opening Day. Exacta box, I am feeling you. Take that, responsible gambling hotline!

Chili, Microbrew, and Local Music Fest

The Sights:

Del Mar Craft Microbrew FestivalThe action was in the infield as Del Mar hosted their Local Microbrew Fest. For a paltry $15 you received a bright green wristband that allowed you FIVE beers! Dozens of San Diego’s best brews were available for sample, each more delicious than the last.

And considering that just 2 mass-market yellow fizzies will run you almost $19 at the concession stand, this was the best deal at the track by a furlong (My first racing-related pun! Probably my last!).

Of course, what’s a beer fest without a chili cookoff? Still a pretty good afternoon, you say? True. But when you’re offered the opportunity to sample 30 of the best stews in San Diego – for free! – you’ve just got to go for it.

Walking up to the entrance, patrons were greeted by a little girl who gave us each a cup, a spoon, and a scorecard. We then walked from booth to booth, sampling each chili and noting our favorites. Sure, the cup was about the size of a Ny-Quil dosing cap, but when you fill and eat 30 times, well, it amounted to more than enough for a meal.

And the best part is, you get to meet what are probably some of the nicest people in the world. Nearly every booth’s contestants consisted of retired married couples, who sweetly filled your cup and genuinely thanked you for trying their entry. It seemed like a good way to spend your retirement years, travelling from town to town, making chili.

A gassy retirement, perhaps, but a good one.

The Scene:

This was more like it. Gone were the hordes of overdressed trust-funders, replaced by good-spirited, genuine San Diego beer folk. People were friendly and polite, and even enjoyed the afternoon responsibly for the most part. Beautiful weather, good people, great beer and good times – this is why I love Del Mar.

Also in the infield, FM 94/9 hosted its Local Music festival. In the interval time between each race (about 20 minutes) fans could take in sets by Heavy Glow, The Silent Comedy, and headliners Get Back Loretta. I’ll leave the music reviewing to the Entertainer’s awesome audiophiles, but I will say that I found the bands to be pretty good, and one of the guys from Get Back Loretta has two of the most adorable little kids in the world, who were dancing wildly and singing along through their whole set.

All in all, if Del Mar does this festival again next year – do not miss. Definitely a highlight of the year so far.

The Take:

Gave back all $57 from Opening Day plus $3 more. Someone told me that a portion of the track’s take goes to help out retired racehorses. They were trying to make me feel better.

They failed.


Friday, August 7 – The Airborne Toxic Event

Wednesday, August 12 – Free and Easy Wednesday

Friday, August 14 – Common Sense


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