This past Saturday marked the 83rd year of the infamous Carolina Cup, held annually at Springdale Race Course in Camden, SC. Horses and jockeys gallop twice around the steeplechase track, and observers crowd the fences as competitors thunder past at impressive speeds, jumping obstacles and occasionally losing a rider during the race.
Steeplechase racing traces its roots back to the United Kingdom during the mid-eighteenth century. However it was not until the 20th century when steeplechase horse races found their way to Camden, a town richly steeped in the history of our state and nation. In 1930, the first Carolina Cup was held and since then it has been visited by 19 South Carolina governors and 15 United States Presidents.
Races occur rain or shine, and much to the fortune of cup-goers this year, there was nary a cloud on the horizon. Bright blue skies, bright green grass, and patrons bedecked in bright spring clothing made sunglasses and hats essential attire.
My friends and I deployed our EZ-UP tent, tables, and ice chests around 10 AM and stayed until after the last race. Our cornucopia featured ham delights and chocolate brownies by Rise Bakeshop, smoked game birds (pheasant, duck, and wild turkey), candied pecans, vegetable and hummus tray, and our traditional Mint Julip station. I’ve never been one to stay stationary, and with the mighty fine people-watching provided at “The Cup,” I needed to mosey around the place.
Foppishness is typical and extreme for men—this year was no different. For the most part, les hommes assumed the role of gentleman-dandy in good taste, as a way to reconnect to the traditional roots of The Cup and it’s beginnings. On the other hand, it was borderline obnoxious watching the uninitiated wear seersucker before Easter and a clip-on bow tie. You tend to see a good bit of this in College Park, which I often refer to as “Little Mogadishu” for the lawlessness and depravity. For the women, Carolina Cup is a fashion show—and a mighty fine one at that, reminiscent of my days in The Grove as an undergraduate at the University of Mississippi. Ladies in their hats and haute couture never fail to impress in The Grove or at The Cup. One particularly memorable ensemble featured an auburn-haired lady draped in sleeveless white dress falling just above the ankle with a deep-plunging neckline, and crowned by a floppy sun hat in natural straw color with Jackie-O sunglasses. Timeless and elegant.
When evening came, we tuned our radio to the NCAA Final Four action and held tight until arriving at Sam Kendall’s for dinner and the remainder of the game. I can’t say I was terribly disappointed in the Gamecocks’ performance; they played like they belonged in that game. And, as in years past, rain or shine, “The Cup” didn’t disappoint me either.