What do pastel gingham, seersucker, garish head wear and Hunter boots all have in common? Together, they form the recipe for the required uniform at Nashville’s annual Steeplechase event.
Despite being a Tennessee native, this was my first time to attend Iroquois Steeplechase. Rather than sit in the stands or even a box, we opted to go in with a group of 20 friends and get a tailgating spot. It wasn’t cheap at around $85 a person, but man, we had the best time. And it was nice having a space where you could store all your food, drinks, spare shoes and other necessities (game of flip cup, anyone?).
Buy your hat well in advance. It’s kind of like how if you wait until December to buy your ugly sweater for the requisite annual Christmas party and everything is picked over. Well, start looking for a hat months in advance to avoid the same come Derby season.
Unless you’re driving to your tailgate spot, you don’t actually have to get there at the crack of dawn. Tailgaters must arrive to park by 10:30am, but everyone else can kind of just show up whenever. Our dear friend Christina took one for the team and arrived early to set up, but SVV and I didn’t get there till nearly noon. We took Lyft to the Percy Warner park entrance then hopped a free shuttle that let us out right at the race grounds. Since we didn’t leave until 5:30pm, I was really happy we hadn’t gotten there at 9am like our friends did; that would have been a loooong day (plus, we don’t like to leave Ella alone unsupervised for that long, being the protective, overbearing furparents that we are).
Bring cash for the food trucks, even if you pack your own food. SVV and I both were out of cash but figured they’re be an ATM somewhere on the grounds. NOPE. All those glorious food trucks with their tasty temptations were calling us, and we couldn’t answer. Though I must give a shout-out to Mas Tacos who paid it forward and sold SVV a taco for the sole dollar he had on him. We are forever fans after that act of kindness.
If you are tailgating, it’s basically one big frat party; be forewarned. Have you ever gone to a frat party in your 30s? No? Me neither…until this weekend. And let’s just say it gets less fun the further from 21 you climb. By the time we left just as the final race was concluding, the grounds were trashed. It was disgusting (who throws empty beer cans on the ground?), and I was getting knocked over left and right by drunken Vandy co-eds. I’ll admit I found this whole scene pretty obnoxious (particularly as I got mowed over by one wasted sorority girl as we were heading to my friend’s car)—but not enough to keep me from repeating next year.
Pack your rainboots, but wear your sandals. All week, the weather forecast called for heavy rain. I had planned to wear my Hunters but then day of, it looked like it might pass right over us so I took a chance and just wore some sandals I didn’t mind getting dusty. I was so glad I did as it didn’t rain a single drop and so many girls were sweltering beneath their wellies in the 85 degree heat.
Don’t forget sunscreen. It sounds obvious, sure, but SVV got a bit scorched. I had already worked up a nice base tan in Florida last week, so I was golden (literally and figuratively), but not everyone I went with escaped unscathed.
Hydrate. (Uh, with something other than beer.) You’ll likely be drinking all day if that’s your thing (not gonna lie, we did), and the last thing you want is a case of heat stroke (or to a lesser degree, a serious hangover the next day). I switched off with water all day, then drank a quart plus a couple of Gatorades when I got home and felt like a million dollars the next day.
There’s actually a race going on. Watch it. You’d be surprised how many people I know who have been going to Steeplechase for decades and yet to see a horse. Though I’m kicking myself for leaving just as the parade of hounds was getting started, but we really wanted to avoid the traffic. Next year; there’s always next year.
Perfect the art of the Irish Good-bye. No need to tell your (likely intoxicated) friends you’re leaving. Simply find an escape route and slip out unnoticed…uh, not that SVV and I would know anything about that!