Flashy, fun hats ruled at the Opening Day Hats Contest Thursday as participants strutted their stuff in Del Mar.
As elaborate toppers trickled into Plaza de Mexico at the Del Mar Racetrack, enthusiastic participants shared the stories behind their hats — from how long the crafty caps took to create to what the hats meant to them.
One woman, Courtney, a U.S. service person, sported a small cap that featured a mini replica of the track, a small, plastic horse and a figurine of the superhero, Iron Man. An American flag and a trim of stars and stripes added the final touches.
Courtney told NBC 7 Opening Day was extra special for her because it was her first one since getting out of the Navy. She was accompanied by her sister, Erica, who was moved to tears because she got to share this special day with her.
Erica said she had been sending photos of Opening Day to Courtney during her deployment, but finally, they got to be together in person for the 2015 festivities.
Other unbelievable hats — and stories — included a man sporting an enormous hat showcasing a replica of the paddock area in Del Mar. He said the paddock staff are the unsung heroes of racing season, so he wanted to honor them with his hat.
Another contestant showed up to the contest in a large hat consisting of a replica of the dome and tower at Balboa Park. She told NBC 7 her hat was a nod to the Balboa Park centennial and San Diego as a whole.
One contestant made her hat entirely out of losing betting slips she collected from those who lost bets at the horse races during Opening Day last year. She strung them onto her hat one by one.
She joked that while her hat only cost a few dollars to make, it was "worth thousands."
NBC 7 spoke with many groups during the Hats Contest, including a ski club outfitted in coordinating orange and blue hats, many mother-daughter teams and a group of 25 engineers from Qualcomm who built hats with motorized parts, including one with a working bubble machine.
Organizers said more than 320 contestants entered the Hats Contest this year. The winners in all five categories were announced after the 7th race in the late afternoon. They are the following:
Best Racing Theme:
- 1st Place - Amber Maturime of Costa Mesa
- 2nd Place - Lori Shelton of San Diego
- 1st Place - Nicole Lloyd of Newport Beach
- 2nd Place - Belinda Berry of Walnut Creek
- 1st Place - Banner Brothers of San Diego
- 2nd Place - Tessa Robeson of Escondido
Best Flowers/All Others:
- 1st Place - Liliana Prieto of San Diego
- 2nd Place - Malorie Clampitt of San Juan Capistrano
- 1st Place - Tanya Shubin of Fountain Valley
- 2nd Place - Jessica Wilson of Del Mar