Imagine Saratoga Springs 150 years ago, the Grand Union Hotel was on Broadway, the largest hotel in the world, horse drawn carriages brought people through town, and gas lamps lit the streets at night. Women wore corsets and wide skirts, men wore frock coats and top hats, and an Irish immigrant named John Morrissey launched a four-day meet at the old trotting track on Union Ave., which later became known as Horse Haven. In the inaugural race, a 3-year-old filly named Lizzie W. defeated the colt Captain Moore with a one-eyed jockey in the irons.
Saratoga Springs already had a long history as a resort destination, and Morrissey knew he had to expand, so he created the Saratoga Race Course with the help of William R. Travers, John R. Hunter, and Leonard Jerome. He also established "The Club House," (now the Canfield Casino in Congress Park) a casino in Saratoga that attracted such notable guests as Chester A. Arthur, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Ulysses S. Grant, as well as Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Rockefeller, and Mark Twain.
This year, Saratoga will go back 150 years to celebrate the birth of Thoroughbred racing, which has brought so very much to our city with the Saratoga 150 Celebration. The five month long celebration will extend from May through September of 2013 and will offer more than 150 events for area residents and visitors including Summer Sunday strolls and a porch contest, a promotion providing $15,000 in cash that one lucky fan will put on Saturdays' featured stakes race, an equine film festival, the Bettors Ball, the re-opening of the Oklahoma Track for public viewing of morning workouts and so much more. Click here for all the information and for special packages you can purchase for the events starting at just $15.
Today I want to tell you about two special family events happening this summer, the Floral Fete and Family Night at the Spa. The Family Night at the Spa, to be held on Friday, May 24th will be held on the grounds of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The community event will include music spanning a wide range of tastes, an old fashioned picnic supper, youth dance groups, storytellers, walk-around entertainment like stilt walkers and clowns, a spectacular fireworks display and a variety of family activities. There will be also be a picnic contest with a grand prize of $1,000!
On the eve of the actual anniversary in August on Friday the 2nd, Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson are hosting and underwriting a Floral Fete promenade down Broadway to Congress Park where they are throwing an ice cream social open to everyone in the community. An article in the New York Times from 1899 described a Floral Fete in Saratoga:
SARATOGA, Sept 7. -- Magnificent weather to-day favored the floral fete given at Saratoga Springs, under the auspices of the Saratoga Floral Association, of which Col. Albert B. Hilton of New York City, a Summer cottager, is President. The work of arranging the floral decorations was completed early this morning, and Saratoga this afternoon resembled a vast garden, radiant and gorgeous in the extreme.
Residents of Saratoga County will be invited to take part in the historical Floral Fete, and will be able to register in one of the categories like bicycle, baby carriage, or wagon. Participants will decorate their bikes or carriages with flowers and are encouraged to take part in the history by dressing up or putting on special Victorian flourishes. Full details will be online with how to register and participate, but space will be limited so you'll want to register early! Historic horse drawn carriages will lead the Floral Fete and will be gloriously decked out in lush blooms for the occasion. After the parade, everyone in the community is welcome to come to the ice cream social, ride the carousel and celebrate our beautiful city's history.
I'm going to keep you all updated on both of these fantastic family events and on ALL of the amazing stuff happening in Saratoga Springs for the Saratoga 150 Celebration. It's truly an incredible time for our city, let's all celebrate history together! xoxo