San Diego

Del Mar Opening Day 2017: Bring on the Hats & Horses

Del Mar Racing starts on July 19, and runs through Sept. 4 at the Del Mar Racetrack

Del Mar Racing season is all about the horses but, on Opening Day 2017, the seaside track in San Diego's North County will be, as usual, all about the hats.

More than 40,000 horse racing fans are expected to attend Del Mar Opening Day on Wednesday, many sporting their flashiest, most ornate toppers for the 23rd annual Opening Day Hats Contest.

[G] Del Mar Opening Day 2016 Hats Contest

This year, the colorful competition takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Plaza de Mexico inside the Stretch Run admission gates. The contest is free to watch, and those who are interested in participating can register at the event for free.

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.”

Missing Attachment Bonita resident Andria Elam spent two months painstakingly hand-sewing a glamorous lilac and turquoise fascinator she wore to Del Mar Opening Day on July 15, 2016. Her work paid off: She won the grand prize at the Hats Contest. NBC 7’s Monica Garske speaks with Elam about her winning hat.

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.

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.

Missing Attachment Fay Meitz incorporated windmills, photos of horses and even a tribute to “I Love Lucy” on her Del Mar Opening Day hat. NBC 7’s Monica Garske speaks to Meitz about how it all came together for the big Hats Contest.

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. 4, 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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