Race for open spaces finishes strong

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The steeplechase action begins at the 86th Radnor Hunt Races, a fundraiser for the Brandywine Conservancy.

The 86th Radnor Hunt Races, on Saturday, May 21, was a day full of tailgating fun and breathtaking steeplechase horse racing.

Despite some rain, elegant hats dominate the Radnor Hunt Races.
Despite some rain, elegant hats dominate the landscape at the 86th Radnor Hunt Races.

The event is among the top five meets in horse racing’s spring schedule. Since 1980, the proceeds of the races have benefited the Brandywine Conservancy’s efforts to preserve and protect the region’s land and water resources. Since its inception, the Brandywine Conservancy has protected more than 62,000 acres of open space.

Attendees enjoyed the exhilaration of spending time in the fresh, country air with family and friends. The ever-faithful Young Friends of the Brandywine Conservancy set up their tailgate early. “We were the first ones in the field; we’ve been here since 10 a.m.,” declared Brian Cawley.

Children hung on the fence rails; old friends and new friends mingled and munched on simple to elaborate picnic spreads. Willistown Boy Scout Troup 78 answered questions and helped guide people around the grounds.

Elaborate patriotic spreads reflect this year's theme 'Picnic with a President.'
Elaborate patriotic spreads reflect this year's theme 'Picnic with a President.'

The tailgate theme this year was “Picnic with a President.” Groups went all out trying to create the best tailgate display and win first prize. Race-goers dressed in costume and used elaborate props to enhance their tailgate displays. Several tailgaters evoked the memory of President John F. Kennedy.

One group focused on the Bay of Pigs invasion and included “Fidel Castro” and live Caribbean music. The extended display also had a presidential limo, a podium and “secret service agents” wearing darks suits and ear buds and mimicking security detail exchanges – all in good fun and contributing to the allusion of a president in attendance.

Radnor Hunt is steeped in tradition, and, once again, the Mounted Color Guard of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry officially opened the day with the presentation of colors.  “The First Troop is the oldest continuously serving cavalry unit in the United States Army,” explained member Dan McCormick of Jenkintown. “Founded in 1774, the troop has fought in every American conflict since the Revolution. It’s part of the 28th Division of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and has been deployed five times since 2011,” he added.

pink hat
Angela and Michael Galantino of Berwyn enjoy the ambience of the Radnor Hunt Races.

Hats, fantastic hats, are always a must-see at the Radnor Hunt Races, and this year didn’t disappoint. Even though the skies were threatening (and actually delivered a brief shower), women still wore wonderful hats in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. A chapeau contest for women and children and a best tie competition for men added to the friendly spirit of competition.

The carriage parade, which was dedicated to the late George A. “Frolic” Weymouth, a Brandywine Conservancy co-founder, was canceled because of the rainy weather. Weymouth died April 24 and was described this way in the race program: “He led the way toward his vision of beauty, fun and sport atop an elegant coach set to four matching bay horses. His spirit will continue to lead our hearts and memories.” A special video tribute to Weymouth was shown, and everyone lifted a glass in salute at the conclusion.


About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

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