A NASCAR – themed “Whoops, Wrong Race!” entry won a top prize in 2013. (Photos by Erik Olsen)
A NASCAR – themed “Whoops, Wrong Race!” entry won a top prize in 2013. (Photos by Erik Olsen)

Tailgating at the Block House

Published 5:16pm Thursday, April 10, 2014
A country tailgate with horse theme at the 2013 Block House. (photo by Erik Olsen).
A country tailgate with horse theme at the 2013 Block House. (photo by Erik Olsen).

Horses and jockeys won’t be the only ones competing at the May 3rd Block House Steeplechase at FENCE. Spectators of all ages can also get into the action with the Stick Horse Race, the Hat Contest and the hotly contested Tailgate Contest.
This year’s Tailgate categories are “Best Country Tailgate,” “Most Unusual,” “Most Elegant” and “Judges Pick.” The top tailgates in each category will receive a gift sponsored by Bi-Lo of Landrum.
“Bi-Lo is putting together great gourmet gift baskets for the winners of each category,” said Tryon Riding & Hunt Club President Nancy Z. Wilson. “This is our first time working with the store in Landrum and we’re excited to have them as a new Block House partner.”
For those just putting together tailgates for their friends, any kind of food and decoration goes as long as it makes your group happy. But if you want to compete for a top prize, it will take originality, a theme to work around, and attention to detail,” according to Gaye Johnson, who has been a Block House Tailgate judge for several years.
Gaye and her husband, Phil, team up with fellow judges Billie and Russ Jordan to review and compare all of the Block House tailgates. With so much ground to cover they split into two teams, one taking the infield competitors and the other doing the hillside groups and others outside the track.
The four judges will be whizzing around in their golf carts to be sure they have time to see everyone. If they stop and ask you if they can take pictures of your tailgate, it’s a sign that you may be in the running for a prize.
“It’s pretty easy to tell the ones who are actually wanting to be judged for the competition but we look at everyone,” Gaye says. “We take pictures of the ones we really like so we have something to show the other judges as we compare what we think are the top entries.”
The “Elegant” and “Country” categories are pretty self-explanatory but the “Most Unusual” and “Judges Pick” have seen all kinds of themes in the past, from a Hawaiian-shirted beach party to one of last year’s winners, a NASCAR-themed “Whoops, Wrong Race!” entry.
“The winners really stand out – they put a lot of work into it,” Gaye says. But here’s her most important tip for showing your tailgate entry off: “Get there early to set up!“
“It takes a lot of time for us to get around and see all the entries,” she explains. “Then we have to compare them, discuss them with the other judges, and have our choices made and handed in well before post-time. If you’ve got a great concept but it’s only partly set up when we come by, we might not have time to come back to see the finished product.”
Spectators also have fun walking through the parking areas to see the different tailgate set-ups. And best of all, regardless of who takes home the gift baskets and bragging rights, all of the tailgates end up being enjoyed by the happy groups who get to eat them.
Terrific tailgating is just one more thing that makes The Block House Steeplechase the biggest one-day event in Polk County every year. Join us on May 3rd for “Derby Day in Tryon” at the 68th Annual Block House Steeplechase.
For more information, ticket orders and parking reservations, visit www.blockhouseraces.com or www.trhcevents.org, or call the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club office at 828-863-0480.
– article submitted by Tryon Riding & Hunt Club

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