The annual Queen’s Cup Steeplechase is not just your average tailgate followed by a horse race: It’s the best doggone lawn party tailgate of the year, and a chance to watch the horses and jockeys perform is icing on the cake. Charlotte locals and race attendees from all over the Southeast anticipate letting loose in their nicest suits, dresses, and statement hats.
The Queen’s Cup takes place in the heart of Carolina springtime, falling this year on April 27th, in the quaint town of Mineral Springs, North Carolina. Bill and Carrington Price, the event’s dedicated founders, prepare for this monumental event year-round so the grounds are ready for serious stomping. The beautiful greens, known as the Brooklandwood Racecourse, fill with horserace enthusiasts and newcomers alike.
Due to the race’s great success across the South, the founders are able to use ticket proceeds to benefit a cause close to their hearts. With close ties to the Price family, this is the sixth year the charity will be the Alzheimer’s Association. Both of Bill’s parents, Jim and Midge Price, died from complications of Alzheimer’s and supporting this cause truly means the world to the Price family. Both Jim — a World War II vet who was awarded two Purple Hearts and a bronze medal for valor — and his loving Midge were proud Steeplechase supporters and benefactors, and their legacy is honored at the Racecourse each and every year. Without these two, the Queen’s Cup wouldn’t be what it is today: the best sporting day of the year.
To fully immerse yourself into all that the Cup has to offer, arrive early and ready to partake in all of the day’s activities. The gates open at 10 am, and from the tailgating to the events, food and drink, socializing, high-stakes races, and even the post-race hot walk party; there is something exciting happening until the very last second of the evening.
When the gates fling open, the day’s events commence. The Opening Ceremonies take place on the field to signal the beginning of the races. The ceremony will consist of the playing of the bagpipes by Grandfather Mountain Highlanders Pipe Band, a color guard presentation, the traditional walking of the hounds, and the national anthem performed by the brilliant voice of Dani Fried, who played Annie on Broadway.
Attendees can watch competitive Jack Russell Terriers sprinting to the finish line, and, since the Cup is also a family affair, pony rides will be offered for children for the better part of the afternoon, presented by Charlotte Latin School. If a hand-decorated hat is part of your ensemble of the day, enter in the Renew Medspa Hat Contest. You better bring your A-game because, as history shows, these hats are some of the most creative, unique, and often, over-the-top you have ever seen.
Once the horse racing starts, the tailgating gets even more fun. The day is made up of four jump races and one flats race. Before they start, guests are invited to the paddock to see the jockeys and horses up close and personal. Then they are off: The horses race around the world-class course, jumping over high fences, ditches, and even water. Because of how the racecourse was built, with its strategic elevations, there is hardly a bad spot from which to view the races. This is extremely rare with steeplechases and makes for an absolutely epic experience. Jubilation in the crowd runs high for those brief minutes of racing, and when the winner crosses the finish line it’s back to great conversation, delicious food, and tasty, boozy beverages.
After the races, all patrons of the Queen’s Cup should stick around for music and dancing at the Hot Walk Party, an event named after the equestrian term where horses are led around the track to cool down after a race. This party metaphorically acts as the hot walk for Queen’s Cup attendees and takes place in the big tent on Member’s Hill. Celebrate with live music, free hors d’oeuvres compliments of Queen City Catering, and a cash bar for all your cocktail needs.
The Queen’s Cup Steeplechase is truly an event for everyone. With plentiful family-friendly festivities, an excuse for hours of tailgating, and even an afterparty, this is a tradition Charlotte is proud to call its own.