It’s different in the dark.
It’s been a big party scene at Churchill Downs this year during the track’s new “Downs after Dark” events. People danced in the paddock, competed in “Bet or No Bet” games, and generally let their hair down for a $10 admission at the track.
Churchill Downs added permanent lights this year to fuel a party atmosphere during the last four Fridays of the 2010 Spring Meet. Typically that made it the place to be for 25,000 to 30,000 people on those nights.
While the horse racing and betting continued, doing it at night upped most folks’ sense of fun and relaxation. To be sure, any racing day that’s not Derby, Oaks or Breeder’s Cup is a more relaxed time, but going during the day means you may be as relaxed only as much as business casual allows. Downs after Dark is a whole ‘nother state of patronage altogether.
The track designed each night around a theme. The first one was dubbed “Disco at the Downs” and urged guests to come decked out in their favorite disco-era clothing. People raided thrift shops and got it on like it was 1979: Polyester three-piece suits, catsuits, maxi dresses, bellbottoms, spandex – you definitely needed some shades and not because of the lights!
More recently, for Independence Day weekend, the track adopted an Americana theme with its “Boots, Brew & BBQ” night. Boot-scooters were welcome to boogie around a beer garden and street party at the track as country music ruled the day.
More nights are planned with the Fall Meet, starting with Halloween. And if you have to miss them all this year, don’t worry. It’s proved popular – and will be back next year!
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