Every year on the weekend of the NCAA Tournament Semi-Finals another sporting event is held regardless of rain, wind or cold--it is the Carolina Cup. For 79 years Camden South Carolina has played host to the annual event. The big event is always the 2nd to last race, the "Carolina Cup."
This year the "Carolina Cup Race" was determined before the horses rounded the back stretch the first time the eventual winner ran off to 12 length lead and never looked back. Still, the Carolina Cup event itself draws 65,000 viewers each year with 5-10 horses in each race. It is so big and the draw is so diverse that a collegiate crowd is assigned an area on the very outside of the race course on the east-side, which is the backside, and is called "College Park." Here fraternities, sororities and other college groups are assigned tents where they can congregate and have a good time.
Other fans line the south rail, infield and the finish-line side where they can tailgate, cookout, and have a good time socializing with others. Historically the joke from some have come to the event, but never saw a horse. This year three riders were dumped in various races, and one horse decided to pay a visit to the south rail checking out the tailgaters and playing keep-away from the field attendants who charged with catching the loose horse. It took close to 20 minutes before the horses decided the game was getting boring, or he was just hungry and was ready to go back to the stables.
The gates opened at 9:00 a.m. when folks were invited into their spaces. The first race was not until 1:30 p.m. with a scheduled 35 minutes between races. The later in the morning fans waited to enter the park, the longer the line at the gates to get in. Fans were expected to exit the park within an hour of the last race, which cut down on loitering around. Fans still had plenty of time for merriment and joy. Behind the grandstands was the Lexus patrons tent, which was invitation only, and was packed with invited spectators where there was food service, televisions, and drink. Beyond that were tents of vendors selling hats, pictures, and clothing. A number of vendors were giving out gifts throughout the day for patrons including Vinyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer.
Normally this is considered the official start to spring and this year with the exception of some high winds it was clear skies and low-70's weather providing ideal conditions for the horses, jockeys, and spectators alike.The ladies were in dresses and hats while bow-ties and seer-sucker were frequently seen on the gentlemen. Throughout the grounds there was food, beer, wine, and mixed drinks along with music, the scent of cigars filled the air. Not to mention a few people who evidently got Cup confused with Halloween as well, but everyone took those people in good stride along with people who were stumbling drunk by the end of the day. In the end it most everything was taken in good stride with folks having fun and celebrating a South Carolina tradition.