I told Tom I do not have a polka-dot dress. He assured me I did not need one. What did we see before we even left the parking lot? A tall, amply built woman sashaying to the entry gate, wearing a broad-brimmed hat and a black & white polka-dot dress.
Ah, well, no matter. Attending Cromwell’s Christmas at the Races is much like going to a Renaissance Fair…thousands of people preening in parade, with eating and drinking and being seen the order of the day. It is a festival. It is a race. It is prom night without a chaperon.
While I sport tennis shoes with socks and arch-support inserts, the gals wear every kind of wedge, platform, toe-biting high-heeled shoe one might imagine, and some that only a devil could devise.
The girls are beautiful, strutting across the grassy knolls and flats, eyes bright, lips shiny and red, dresses flowing, hats slightly askew and precarious but pinned and unmoving–or, no hats at all.
We had no idea that the horse races might coincide with our stay in Cromwell, but Christmas at the Races is a big event. Thousands of people come from miles around, hotels fill to the brink, and dresses of every variety flow and lift in the gentle breeze. Had the races been yesterday, the costuming would have been a disaster with rain falling and winds gusting. Today the winds are mild, the sky is clear, and a faint but heady aroma of coconut oil mingles with the scents of cotton candy and crispy-fried treats on sticks.
As the hours pass and we watch the third race of five, we decide to amble on out to the parking lot. We have seen the pretty side of the day.
At this hour, the beauty and excitement falter. The girls begin to wobble on their heels or to take them off entirely.
Beverage lines grow too long, overheard conversations are lousy with four-letter words, and queues at the toilet positively wriggle with urgency. (We avert our eyes from the unfortunate fellow who relieves himself, leaning against the backside of an occupied porta-potty, alongside the roadway where we walk.)
Two more races to go, but we head for the finish line.
Back at our motel, off our feet and settled at our picnic table, we slice cheeses and dine on crackers while we marvel at the day, the dresses, the hats couture, the drinking, and the horses that flew past.