Karl Quinney offers an insight to taking the whole family along to a Family Race Day:
As I am writing this early in the year, I’m trying to imagine myself and the family having a day at the races amidst (hopefully) warm, clear skies…
Despite the current covering of snow outside, I am picturing a vibrant Parade Ring, rich with colour and splendour, buoyed by a distant background of lively entertainment and fun-filled young voices bursting with laughter. ‘Base Camps’ of picnic rugs with baskets of food and drink are dotted at every turn, set among green gardens and nearby resplendent flowerbeds. Parents and grandparents are showing their sons and daughters how the race formalities unfold: who and what to look for and why, before the anticipation heightens, the jockeys and horses make their way to the start line, the race begins and the excitement builds as the horses hurtle towards the finish.
It is perhaps a dreamy picture in these cold climes of January, but it is one that will become more and more real at race meetings all over the country come spring, summer and autumn. Racecourses are doing everything they can to attract families to sample and enjoy the thrill and excitement of a day at the races that so many of us already know and enjoy. After all, today’s younger racegoer is hopefully tomorrow’s racegoer.
As you will see from a glance at the list of race meeting fixtures for 2010 (see Calendar), nearly every UK racecourse has designated at least one meeting to be a ‘Family Day’. Some courses even have a number of dates to choose from.
While you can never guarantee the weather, the majority of Family Days are staged during the (theoretically) warmer months; the first getting off the ground from February and early spring, right through to mid-autumn September and October. Most are held on a Saturday or Sunday, then particularly over bank holidays, and school and other holiday periods. In addition, a number of racecourses now also regularly stage winter and Christmas Family Days, with Santa et al.
So what can you expect? Great offers, backed by a range of activities and attractions all designed to get families interested in the whole concept of a Family Day Out at a race meeting.
It is heartening to know a family day at the races proves excellent value; especially when entry for two adults and two or more children may cost as little as £10. In most cases, children under 16 (accompanied by an adult) go free.
Once there and through the turnstiles, racecourses successfully combine sporting excitement with a wide range of extra entertainment to keep the kids further occupied and amused. Many courses put on a wide range of activities, for example children’s entertainers and shows, bouncy castles, and face painting; plus there are often crèche and play areas also available for kids to enjoy. Add to that special offers on food and drink, plus inevitably an increase in the number of ice cream vans, and you have everything a family could need for a great day out. Oh, and then there is the actual racing itself, of course!
Family Days at the races are proving increasingly popular year on year and it is easy to see why. For a variety of reasons my experience of them so far has been sans our two ‘little people’…however this year they will make their debut! They have seen horseracing on the television, they have seen the colour, the people, the horses, the ‘little men’ (by that, read jockeys), and now they want more. They want to see it up close and personal.
So, come the spring and the summer, the four of us will immerse ourselves in a Family Day at the races (and knowing our two, it will probably be repeated regularly thereafter) and all that these days have to offer. Hopefully you will too.
Father of two, Karl Quinney is a freelance writer and journalist, based in Warwickshire.