Every autumn, Hollywood, South Carolina, fizzes with the spirited energy only one time-honored tradition can provide. Women in wide-brimmed hats and men rocking Brackish bowties descend upon the polo field at Stono Ferry for a day of horse racing and upscale tailgating.
While Charleston’s best are dressed in their absolute finest, the real showstoppers are a tad grander in stature. Robust thoroughbreds, with gleaming coats and flowing manes, will gallop their way to greatness at the 22nd running of The Charleston Cup, which is expected to draw more than 15,000 people on Nov. 8. Will you be one of them?
“If attendees are coming to see the races, they will feel the adrenaline as their favorite horse thunders around the track in pursuit of the win,” said Karl McMillan, who has been race director since the Cup began in 1986. “If they are coming to party, they have many options to enjoy the day, from a lawn chair and a blanket to a reserved space on the rail – whatever suits their budget and fancy. Blue jeans and beer to minks and caviar, The Cup is where you see it all.”
This year, the horses aren’t the only ones getting in on the racing. Jack Russell Terriers will be gleefully prancing toward the finish line soon after the gates open at 9 a.m. There also will be a kids’ village, complete with face painting, to keep the youngsters occupied.
In addition to putting on this exquisite event, The Charleston Cup plays a role in giving back to those in our community who need it most. This year, the charity benefactor will be THRIVE SC – a local organization that provides housing and help to victims of domestic violence. Funny man Stephen Colbert, a huge advocate of this nonprofit, will be in attendance on race day, and he’ll also be teeing off at The Charleston Cup’s Golf Tournament, which benefits THRIVE SC as well.
Businesses and organizations throughout the Lowcountry persistently show support for The Cup by providing sponsorship or purchasing a tent. McMillan offers up appreciation to East Cooper businesses such as RE/MAX of Mount Pleasant for their dedication to the sport.
“While the horse racing is a large part of the atmosphere, many people attend The Cup to see and be seen,” said McMillan. “I’m continually impressed with the longevity of this event and the effort people put into attending.”
The Charleston Cup usually features a particular artist in the mediums of oil or watercolor, but this year they’ve decided to go a more digital route. At the upcoming race, photographer Paul Mulkey, the man behind the trendy Tag Your Pix company, will be exhibiting some of the most memorable shots from past Cups.
“I felt it was time to think outside the box this year and do something different,” said McMillan. “Tag Your Pix has covered the ball and races since 2011 and has done a superb job for us.”
Indulge in a day of champagne-popping and endless possibilities. From marriage proposals in the middle of the field to a Bill Murray sighting, you never know what this day of fun will bring.
“It’s the best feeling in the world to watch the last car leave after the races are over,” said McMillan, reflecting on the utter joy another successful Charleston Cup brings him.
By Kalene McCort
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