Del Mar's historic racetrack is preparing to open on July 17 and throngs of race fans, hat aficionados, handicappers, and party people of all sorts are getting ready to breach the gates with a mixture of exuberance and giddiness.
The countdown clock to Opening Day has been ticking for months now and make no mistake, these racing enthusiasts are clamoring to get in. Inside awaits the self proclaimed "biggest party of the Southern California summer" plus a full card of California's best horse racing, and wait there's more - Del Mar racetrack is right on the ocean, hence the phrase "where the surf meets the turf." For race fans in other less scenic, landlocked grandstands, this sounds like a horseplayer's Nirvana
The track has had a long history of jubilant opening days. Maybe it's the closeness to the ocean; a combination of sea air and horseflesh that makes the energy electric, the atmosphere like a surreal wonderland.
Del Mar's Opening Day coup de grace, "The truly fabulous hat contest," brings out the mad hatter in everyone - man, women and child. Competition is fierce.
Mainly what you need to know is: the bigger, the better. When in doubt, always add more stuffed animals, or balloons, or plastic toys, or whatever you can find that conveys your exuberance. Excitement about hats will reach a fever pitch and only play second to the excitement as the horses thunder past the grandstand. Happy Opening Day Del Mar! Giddy up!