Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Ebor Festival in the Pink for Ladies

As the fall out from this month's pockets of unrest continued, York Racecourse put all economic and social worries to one side and had a riot of its own - only this time it was a riot of colour and, suitably for Ladies Day at the Ebor Festival, it was pink.

Pink dresses mixed with pink hats underneath the giant pink branding of the headline sponsor as glasses of champagne (pink optional) chinked winner after winner. The historic old Knavesmire blushed with pride as 30,000 people came together in August sunshine to meet, eat, drink and get merry.

No need for Facebook or Twitter feeds to create a flash mob crowd here, this was social networking of the old fashioned kind. Orderly queues were formed for the Champagne Lawn as the brass band led the percussion of glasses. Knights of the realm cast careful eyes over their equine assets, A-level students so recently graded, celebrated, and thousands upon thousands of well-dressed racegoers squeezed into tailored suits and favourite frocks to embrace the spirit of the day’s dressing up. Hats were a talking point, an edible horse made from Yorkshire produce another and the sight of a jovial Sir Alex Ferguson - despite having no winners - caused an afternoon stir amongst onlookers at the Parade Ring.

Behind the fashion and famous faces though, Ladies Day is big business. Without the festival – shifted to include a Saturday for the first time in the hope of attracting a new weekend audience – the city and the county would be a much poorer place. It is estimated that the racecourse contributes £58m to York businesses, benefitting everyone from taxi-drivers to hairdressers and, judging by the shoes on show, chemists for blister repair kits.

Nick Fazackerley, general manager of hospitality at the racecourse explained the demand his team has to cope with: “We have 30,000 bottles of champagne delivered for the festival and during Ladies Day we would expect to get through 8-10,000 bottles. We also have 100 kegs of Pimms delivered which contain 20,000 glasses and we’re expecting over 4,000 of those glasses to be drunk today. “In terms of hospitality Ladies Day is the biggest of the Festival with about 5,000 covers, there is not a spare seat in the house, everyone wants to be here for Ladies Day.”

As with all things horseracing, numbers are key and it looks like William Derby, the clerk of the course, is backing an odds on favourite. The Ebor Festival is definitely in the pink and with a new 93,000 attendance record this week, it looks like to could be blooming for years to come. 

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