Thousands party in style at Arundel steeplechase

Tailgaters serve up lavish spreads amid the hills of Roedown Farm


News from around the Baltimore region

April 11, 2005|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,SUN STAFF

For the judges at Roedown Farm in southern Anne Arundel County yesterday, the artificial Christmas tree atop an SUV was a first. But it didn't beat Rustler's Rhapsody, a Wild West-style bar with horses made out of hay and music by guitar-playing cowboys.

It was all part of yesterday's 31st annual Marlborough Hunt Races, a steeplechase event known as much for lavish tailgate parties as the equine competition. And with picture-perfect weather, more than 5,000 revelers flocked to the farm's rolling pastures to party and watch horses jump fences.

The creature comforts were mostly for humans, who sipped champagne, and nibbled on crackers and chips, and more elaborate dishes.

Jackie Brickman sat with her sister and three friends at a table overlooking the races. Atop a white tablecloth was an array of home-made shrimp dip in an artichoke, pita-and-hummus sandwiches, and chicken kabobs.

"This is how we do it in California," said Brickman, a retired radiologist from San Diego, after taking a sip of red wine from a silver goblet.

For Joe Duley and his three friends, the beverage of choice was mimosas - champagne and orange juice - which they sipped out of plastic cups, each with a strawberry on the rim. They hovered around a cooler of beer and wine on a hilltop.

"I'm Italian-Irish. I appreciate the finer aspects of Italian-Irish: beer and wine," said Duley, 43, a disc jockey for radio station WRNR-FM.

It was spectator Duley's first steeplechase. "I'm trying to overcome my fear of horses. I got kicked by a horse in Central Park 25 years ago," he said.

But for his friend, 42-year-old Spencer Leech of Annapolis, the Marlborough races are a childhood tradition.

These days, Leech likes going to the races to see old friends. On a wooden fence nearby, he had stuck a Maryland state flag through the head of his lacrosse stick from Key School in Annapolis in the hopes that his trademark display would catch the notice of old friends.

At the bottom of the hill, four women from the Red Hat Society, a social club for ladies in their 50s and beyond, set up a table of snacks. Calling themselves the Purple Prose Chapter of the Red Hat Society, they were decked out in red hats and purple blouses.

"It's outdoors, it's spring. We can show off our regalia," said Barbara Fons, 67, as she squeezed a plastic bag of Trader Joe's guacamole into a bowl.

Marty Meyer, in his seventh year as a judge for the tailgate competition, said the best tailgaters make their own food and decorations and are dressed in a theme.

He took notes as he sampled a slice of turkey from the Christmas display organized by Debbie Larsson of Annapolis. Each member of her group wore fuzzy antlers. Larsson's 11-year-old son, Evan, played "Silent Night" on a trumpet. On their table sat a turkey, a plate of stuffing shaped like a horse head, and red-and-green-sprinkled sugar cookies.

Larsson paid $800 at a charity auction for her tailgate spot. "We were going to go with an English theme, but Christmas is much more fun," she said.

Newlyweds Christian and Cindy Dahlby - he's 36, and she's 39 - used a wedding theme, complete with a vine-covered trellis. Their wedding took place March 31, and more than 200 relatives and friends attended the races with them.

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