The style, the feathered, sequined, flowery hats, the fake tan, the make-up, the nails and the fresh blow-dry – it would bring tears to your eyes.
Always races are back. And everyone wins.
Forget the pandemic, forget work, there was only ‘pints and craic’ on the menu from Ardrahan, Co. Galway’s Gerard Lane.
“It’s great to be back here. The madness and atmosphere can’t be beat. I’m going to Cheltenham too and that’s better.’
Eddie Duggan, from Kilkishen, Co Clare, turned 90 last week.
He and his wife Bridget woke up Monday morning agreeing they were in the mood to race and continued on to Ballybrit.
The Clareman knows how to have fun – he tells me he’s a member of a Ceilí band and has been to the Ballinrobe, Listowel and Limerick races this year.
“So I live as long as I can. When I’m dead, I won’t race.
“We’ve been coming here for years but we’ve missed the last two years with the Covid.
“It’s nice to be here and to meet the people.
“It’s a beautiful place and I think the good weather makes up for it.”
Eddie points across the table at Bridget and says with a smile, “We’ve been married a long time – 52 years.
“And we’ve been coming here for almost as many years, and it’s all fond memories.”
Corrina Hynes, a bank clerk from Sligo, and her school friend Tracy McGuinness, a physiotherapist from Killybegs, Co. Donegal, meet each year at the races.
Corinna says they come every year, they even made it last year when the crowd was reduced to just 1000 a day.
“Last year, and it was a much quieter affair.
“We got tickets, we are enthusiastic fans. We’ve been coming since I think we’re 16, we won’t say our age but it’s been a few years.
“We absolutely love it.
“We love everything about it, the atmosphere, the fun and the dressing, the makeup and hair done and chatting and meeting people.
“And we always come on opening day, I think it’s special.
“It’s more local.
“We both went to boarding school together in Tuam and often meet up with old friends.
“But we always just have fun together and today is the first time we’ve seen each other in a year.
Tracy, who works for the HSE, has been looking forward to returning to racing after two difficult years on the front lines.
“It’s been a privilege to be involved in the work during the pandemic but it’s great to come out and be free and have fun after lockdown.”
Tracy and Corinna’s majestic hats were made in one night by the incredibly talented Rasa Kind.
“I said to Rasa we’re going to Galway to make arrangements and she did. She’s Wonder Woman,” says Tracy.
But what can a woman do in half an hour with a glue gun and some white silk?
Ask Castlebar accountant Emma McCormack.
Crowned with a gorgeous ankle-high white rose hat, Emma was the talk of the champagne tent.
Who could have made this stunning chapeau, I ask: “I made it myself, you would think,” says a beaming Emma.
“It’s amazing what you can do with a glue gun,” she adds.
How long did it take? “Probably half an hour,” she says, cool as a breeze and
Surrounded by her friends – each more divine than the other – Emma says it’s life-affirming to be back in Ballybrit after the pandemic.
“The Galway Races are the highlight of my social calendar and we make it every year.
“We meet friends from all over the country.
“We go to race meetings across the country, but this is the most social.”
Carmel Groarke, from nearby Corrandula, believes what makes Galway magical is “the roar of the crowd”.
“Wonderful to be back, we always love Monday night racing and it’s great to see everyone out and about and the weather is lovely.
“I think the roar of the crowd is what makes the Galway Races special to me.”
Retired Champion Jockey and Ladbrooks Ambassador Nina Carberry eschewed silk and helmet for a pink floaty midi dress and bespoke headpiece by Irish lace milliner WendyLouise.
Nina agrees Galway Races is about the memories you make with family and friends and even your rivals.
“Galway even goes back to my childhood for me.
“We’ve always come to Galway, we’ve never really gone abroad.
“So that was our week where our mum would take us down and rent out and spend a few days at the beach and a few days at the races.
“Heading west to Galway for race week has been on my heart for a long time.
“When I was in my early twenties I came down with a large group of friends and we rented houses by the week – Sunday to Sunday you’d hate to miss a night.
“And every festival was different.
“And then when I started riding, it was just awesome to be there.
“It’s a very special festival because it’s in the summer.
“The atmosphere is special.
“Everyone crowded together and people came from all corners of Ireland and even from abroad.
“You’re looking straight at the track and it’s such a beautiful track to watch the races.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/its-great-to-be-out-and-to-be-free-again-the-galway-races-are-back-and-so-is-the-style-41866813.html ‘It’s great to be outside and free again’ – the Galway Races are back and so is the style