My wife was out of town this weekend to attend a homeschooling conference. While she was out, I got some great weather and lots of time to spend with my three boys. We're new to the area, so I really don't know the things to do in town, but I do know that the horse races are on at Keeneland for the month of April (and October, but we haven't been here for an October yet).
So we walked to the bus stop and caught the bus to Keeneland for a day at the races. Actually, I just thought it would be fun to let the boys see the horses.
In many ways the races were just as stereotyped, but in other ways I was shocked. I had imagined Keeneland as a place of fancy dresses, big weird looking hats and money. All those things were true. Most people were dressed up. I don't know how to explain it. I dress up on occasion, as does my wife, but this was different. Lots of pastel colors, lots of bow ties and lots of women in dresses that didn't require a lot of material. It wasn't formal wear. It wasn't something you would see at church or a wedding. It was different. Maybe I could just call it 'uppity casual' except that the people wearing it seemed more like they were pretending to be uppity than actually having money.
I think this idea of people pretending to be uppity was where my shock came in. I expected to be among rich people in a new social situation fancier than I'm used to. That is a part of horse racing. I've seen it in the movies and I expected it. What I didn't expect was the poor behavior. When I think of the wealthier parts of society, I think of people who have been well educated and know how to handle themselves in social situations. I think of sipping wine and having intellectual conversation. I think of well mannered people being entertained while they try to make a buck betting on horses.
In reality, what I found was the most foul mouthed, rudest group of spectators that I've been around. Don't misunderstand, hockey fans can certainly be drunk and rude, but it's almost expected. They also seem to be able to control their language around kids. I was expecting far more from the horse racing crowd. In my short time there, I had at least a half dozen people spill beer on me or my kids and I can't even begin to count the vulgarities being yelled in the area. Horse racing doesn't all take place in one location. First you have to walk to the ring where they show the horses and then you have to walk back to the track where the race occurs and then back to the ring in preparation for the next race. There was almost as much pushing and shoving as you would see at a European Football match (that's an exaggeration, but there was still no way to navigate with three kids). I was disappointed to say the least.
I wonder if it has always been that way. I wonder if the fan base of horse racing has always 'pre-gamed' in the parking lot to get drunk before the races. I wonder if there was a time when the wealthier people were really there hanging out in their fancy clothes rather than a bunch of college students who had been to Good Will and gotten outfitted in way too much pastel. Or has it always been a place where classes mix and get drunk together.
Anyway, the boys and I enjoyed one race and then we went and walked around in the barns. It was nice to see the grungy working folk. I felt better able to relate to them, although I doubt that I spoke the correct language. A gentleman invited the boys to pet his horse and we got to look at lots and lots of horses in their stalls. I think the barns were the best part of the day.
Then we caught the bus and returned home. It was a full day on the town for $7. $1 each way for the bus and $5 admission for the horse races. And I didn't have to fight traffic for a single moment.