San Diego

Del Mar Opening Day 2018: Bring on the Hats & Horses

This year's Opening Day festivities begin the minute the gates open at 11:30 a.m.

It will be a sea of big, colorful hats in San Diego's North County as horses take their marks for the start of the 2018 Del Mar Racing season on Wednesday.

Hat-adorning attendees will be a part of a tradition dating back to the Del Mar Racetrack's opening in 1937, when Bing Crosby greeted guests as they entered the track "where the turf meets the surf."

This year's Opening Day festivities begin the minute the gates open at 11:30 a.m.

The famous Opening Day Hat Contest will bring hundreds of guests sporting their flashiest, most ornate toppers to the Plaza de Mexico just inside the Stretch Run admission gates between 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The contest is free to watch, and those who are interested in participating can register at the event for free.

Del Mar Racing spokesperson Craig Dado shares tips for those heading to Del Mar Opening Day on Wednesday.

One by one, contestants will strut their stuff, showcasing their fancy, elaborate hats as they compete to win their share of more than $5,000 in total prizes.

The competition includes five categories, with contestants judged on creativity and style: "Most Glamorous," "Best Racing Theme," "Funniest/Most Outrageous," "Best Fascinator," and "Flowers/All Other."

Check out some of the best hats we could find at Del Mar opening day.

This year, first place winners in each category will receive a $300, plus a Studio Savvy gift basket valued at $250. Second place winners will walk away with $200, while third place winners score $100. 

The biggest winner of the day – the Bing Crosby Grand Prize winner – will receive a one-night stay at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar and a multi-course dinner for two with wine pairings at Del Mar’s lavish Addison Restaurant. This prize is worth more than $1,000.

Watch the crowds come and go at the Del Mar Racetrack Wednesday for Opening Day in this time-lapse video.

According to organizers, the Opening Day contest was officially established in 1995. Each year, the competition is fierce with hardcore hat enthusiasts turning out by the droves to show off their creations.

Many spend months meticulously designing that perfect hat to match their Opening Day attire flawlessly. Year after year, hundreds of participants enter the Hats Contest, making it the place to see and be seen on Opening Day.

NBC 7's MJ Acosta reports how San Diegans are celebrating opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack, Thursday.

Tickets to Del Mar Opening Day cost $15 per person; the first horse race is at 2 p.m.

The 2017 Del Mar Racing season runs through Sept. 3, with the track closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. General Stretch Run admission tickets cost $6 per person. On most Fridays and Saturdays throughout the season, entertainment includes a concert on the Seaside Stage after the final race of the day.

SoundDiego shares details on those concerts here. For the full calendar of events going down at the track this season, visit the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club website.

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