From the desk of: God bless America from San Diego

This year the Del Mar race season is from July 20 to Sept. 7. For the past 20 years my son Steve has made it a point to be there on opening day. Since he lived in Solana Beach most of that time he would just ride his bike to the track.

He no longer lives there so we took the Coaster from Old Town to the Solana station. We mingled a bit with the optimistic folks waiting for the train. Steve shared his sunscreen with those who forgot theirs, and he got knuckle taps when he donned his "lucky" Hawaiian shirt and gold necklace which he has worn to the races for two decades.

The Coaster ride went smoothly enough even though the cars were packed. Double-decker buses carried us from the Solana Beach station to the opening gate. We had a good driver who played the ukulele while we waited.

The tricky part was getting into the race track. A crowd of 46,588 was there for the opening of Del Mar's 72nd season. Hordes of people crowded in line to get into the track. It took us two hours. Steve assured me over and over he had never seen such a crowd.

This opening day was unique not only for the record-setting attendance, but for jockeys Chantal Sutherland of Canada and Kayla Stra of Australia winning their first races at Del Mar. They became the first female jockeys ever to win races on the same day at the racetrack.

We finally got into the track in time for the colorful Hat Parade, the main reason I wanted to come to the races.

Young, and not so young, women got into the spirit of the occasion, as well as a few men in outrageous costumes. Most of the chapeau's were made up of various fabrics, netting, furs and feathers, and fresh flowers. One woman’s generous-sized hat was made entirely of baby roses, others utilized flashing lights, and one even had three small hot air balloons. A clever woman used her own long hair to wrap around a hat frame.

Because of the mass of mankind, and womankind, it was nearly impossible to get close to places where food was being served. I came home famished, I hadn't taken any snacks with me. Bratwurst and onions on a bun were calling to me, but I made do with a juicy cheeseburger from a drive-in when we got back. It was delicious.

The race horses were beautiful. I always enjoy reading their names: Kettle Corn, A Big To Do, Cha Cha Latte, Bound for Eden, Ominous Thomas, Del Mar Dude, Iammakinapoint and Weemissfrankie, the lone horse we won on.

***

Last week several of us met at the Twilight in the Park concert in Balboa Park. Ron Jermain's Big Band Era group was featured playing '40s and '50s music. One of our friends brought a guest with her, a handsome black-haired Italian. When we were introduced he grabbed me and gave me a big hug.

It turns out he wrestled for University High School in San Diego, and had been at Holtville High School’s annual wrestling meets a couple of years. He competed in the same weight class as my son, Tony. He reminded me that he and a couple of his teammates spent the night at our house, too.

He also recalled that our steers got out of the corral the night they were there, and my husband recruited the wrestlers to help with the round up.
The man's name was Bruce Ognibene. Such a small world.

***

On Friday night we attended one of the Point Loma Park summer concerts. We got situated a half hour before the 5:30 p.m. starting time. Although we thought we were the early birds, many folks had already staked out their spots for the evening. A warm-up group usually plays for the first hour. The group Cash'd Out provided the evening’s main entertainment. The lead singer sounded just like Johnny Cash.

We had a nice group to share goodies with. I think the Stilton cheese with fresh pears was the favorite snack. Next Friday, The Mar Dels will be on hand to entertain. The first classic car show will be featured the same night. These all-American concerts bring out the whole family, and a goodly number of family dogs. I love that they start off the shows with the singing of "God Bless America."

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2013 YEAR IN REVIEW
Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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