The Carolina Cup
The Carolina Cup is an annual steeplechase horse racing event, which takes place each year in Camden, South Carolina, and carries a heavy importance in the Southeast. To many, the Carolina Cup means much more than just horse racing. It marks the beginning of spring, and is one of the historic and traditional social events of the South that has been taking place for over seventy years. Today the event has become more about the tailgating, sundresses, and big hats than the actual races for many people. With over sixty thousand people in attendance, the Carolina Cup will be packed with college students each year, dressed in their plaid pants, oxford shirts with ties, sundresses, and of course, oversized hats.
Not only is this event a chance to tailgate with thousands of people, it is also like a spring fashion show, where nothing is too over-the-top, and the bigger the hat, the better. Fraternities and sororities especially look forward to the Carolina Cup each year and make plans to attend. If one had to put a label on the event for college students in attendance, it would have to be called frat-tastic. Expect to see men in their most preppy plaid and pastel colored clothes and women in heels, sundresses, and pearls. In addition, because it has become a college tradition in the South, especially in South Carolina, there is plenty of alcohol and drinking involved in this tailgating experience, much like a college football tailgate. This year, the Carolina Cup will take place on Saturday March 27th. So pick out a fabulous outfit, pack the cooler, and prepare for a traditional Southern steeplechase event, mixed with the spirit of college tailgating. They have gotten high tech over the past couple of years, you can become a fan of them on Facebook or even follow them on Twitter.
The Carolina Cup is held at the Springdale Race Course in Camden, South Carolina, which was the first full length course in the country. Generally, the gates open in the mornings around 9:00am. There are six or seven races throughout the day beginning at 1:30pm. Because it is an annual event, the tickets will begin to sell early, making the beginning of the year the best time to make plans. Tickets and parking space reservations go on sale in mid January. While general admission is only $25.00 if purchased before March 13, the parking tends to be much more, although the costs are per vehicle.
College Park is the area of the event where most of the college students will tailgate. Tickets for rows A, B, or C in College Park are $800.00 for two parking spaces, including room for a small tent or canopy. However, those who do not plan on bringing a tent can purchase a $200.00 ticket, which includes one parking space in rows D or E and two general admission tickets. While this may seem expensive, remember that most students will try to fill their vehicles with as many friends, as safely possible, to split the costs. Tickets will not be refunded as the race will go on, rain or shine. When the weather begins to warm up and spring is around the corner, the anticipation for the Carolina Cup races begins in the South. Tickets Here
The atmosphere in College Park is like one big party, where everyone is dressed up in their best spring clothes. People set up their tailgating space with tents, coolers, and small grills for the day’s events. In the past few years, there has been so much drinking among college students at the Carolina Cup that underage drinking tickets are often issued, and the police have tried to prevent any drinking that goes on before even entering the grounds. No glass containers are allowed for obvious safety reasons. Bringing plenty of food and water is very important, especially since without a tent, standing around in the sun all day can be very draining. Anytime drinking at an all day outdoor event is involved, bringing plenty of water is essential.
This tailgating experience is taken very seriously by most participators. I have even heard of friends bringing motorized coolers that can actually be a mode of transportation and a cooler all in one single device. Because College Park is filled with college students, the area becomes an enormous college party with people walking around and mingling with their neighbors, many of whom they may even know from their schools. And let’s face it; there is something fun about dressing up in your fancy spring dresses and large “Pretty Woman” style steeplechase hats. The men can wear pastels, plaid pants, and anything Lilly Pulitzer. Where else can a college student dress this way and completely blend in to a crowd of all ages? The people watching opportunities at the Carolina Cup are almost as much fun as seeing the actual horse races!
Besides water, the other important survival tool for any warm weather outdoor event is sunscreen. There is no telling how many women return from the Carolina Cup with lobster red burns on their shoulders leaving tan lines from their dresses. This is not a good look for anyone, and certainly not helping in the skin cancer department, so sunscreen is a must have. Another recommendation is bringing an emergency kit to leave in the car stocked with Band-Aids and other helpful things just in case there is a minor emergency or accident.
An obvious precaution is having a designated driver to and from the event. Besides bringing a tent, which can be nice to get out the sun for awhile, folding chairs are vital to any tailgating event, but especially when you really do not want to get your steeplechase attire dirty. The oversized hats are really no exaggeration, and college girls really will wear some of the most flashy Southern lady hats to the Carolina Cup, which can actually be very convenient for keeping out of the sun.
The Carolina Cup is an honored tradition in the South that has kept its popularity even among the young college crowds. While many people attend for the sporting event of the steeplechase and horse racing, it is also one of the most important annual social events of the South. In addition, it also provides the perfect post college football season tailgating opportunity.
By Carrie McCloud