Winterthur's 35th Annual Point-to-Point steeplechase took place Sunday, amidst sunny skies and cool breeze that carried the scents of food-lots of it Mexican, thanks to this year's calendar intersection with Cinco de Mayo.
The celebration of all things Mexican didn't stop with food either. A few revelers donned sombreros and ponchos as well.
In actuality, most tailgaters paid very little homage to the traditional Hispanic holiday. Most people celebrated and partied as they have in years past, with large catered spreads featuring everything from fried chicken and lasagna to homemade cakes and bakery-bought cookies.
First time tailgater, Cybele Gontar, a native of New Orleans who now resides in New York City, attended this year for the first time, trying very hard to fit in. She was tutored well, though, and her spread included all the Point-to-Point basics-a linen tablecloth, fresh flowers and cutlery that was a step above the generic store-bought variety.
"I'm a museum researcher and I frequently research here," said Gontar. "So, when I heard about it, I called up my friends and dragged them down here for a good time."
She said she was not disappointed, adding that she was particularly pleased with her homemade cupcakes, which she arranged on a cookie sheet to spell out "Point-to-Point."
"I absolutely love it," Gontar said. "We've been drinking champagne and having the best time."
The attention to detail is important. There's a silver tray at stake for the tailgater with the best set-up. Judges walk around in secret, judging each person's arrangement for "anything unique and special that makes the tailgate outstanding," including themes, ambiance and presentation. The food is also judged but just for the looks of it. Judges are not allowed to taste anything.
The tablescape that ultimately won the coveted silver tray was an elaborate curry-inspired set-up that included a weather vane, fine china, fresh flowers, comfortable seating and enough food for seconds and thirds.
Still, not everybody tailgates with hopes to win anything. Some people, like Susan Cascells, just look forward to spending the day with their families.
"Look at our view," Cascells said as she motioned to the sweeping hillsides that the vantage point of spot 310 provides her with. "You can see why I rarely even bother leaving this spot."
Her husband explained that years ago, they were in spot three or four, much closer to the racing action but made the move to 310 so that the children could have a little more room to roam. They found they liked the new spot and can be found there year after year, alongside their children, now adults, who make the trek home with new loved ones and friends, year in and year out now.
Page 2 of 2 - "It's a family day for us," Cascells said. "It always has been and it always will be."