The prospect of a rainy Sunday didn’t deter huge crowds who were intent on celebrating the 40th running of Point-to-Point, all of whom were rewarded with an afternoon that stayed dry throughout the annual steeplechase races.
As always, revelers were on the grounds hours before the 2pm race time to set up their hatchback parties and elegant tailgates. Wilmington’s answer to the Kentucky Derby draws thousands each year to the rolling green hills of Winterthur to celebrate the dawn of spring. Attendance reached an estimated 18,000, and this year marks the most tailgates ever sold. Men and women alike embraced the spirit of the occasion with bright clothes and colors, including fancy hats and stylish jackets.
Sumptuous delicacies ranged from higher end French cuisine to homemade comfort food, like fried chicken. With an abundance of beverages, most themed tailgates offered specialty drinks, like a “Horse’s Ass” (made with rum), Mojitos and the like. As with all horse races, there was even a little betting on the side.
While judges at Winterthur awarded the official Best Tailgate, WDEL held an unofficial vote for best tailgate, landing Carrie and Tony Wedo and Jen and Michael Steiner in first place in the popular vote. The pair, who are cousins, begin their planning in March. “It’s a ton a work but truly a labor of love! We could do a lot less in the way of presentation, but it’s not just a picnic, it’s a special day,” said Carrie Wedo.
Their tabletop displays vary from year to year, and this year navy blue and white served as inspiration to the creative duo. “Our flowers play a big role in what our linen choices are, and this year we assembled a centerpiece arrangement with sunflower yellow and blue hydrangeas. At the same time we were really drawn to different shades of blue and white for the linens, which is clean and fresh and oh so Spring,” said Wedo.
The planning can be almost as much fun as P2P itself. “Every year as the topiary horse appears on Winterthur’s grounds, my friends an I begin to plan our annual tailgate party,” said Wilmington resident Erica Donoho. “The group email is created and we use it almost daily to exchange recipe ideas, assign tasks, create signature cocktails and, most of all, hope for good weather.”
The fact that families with children join in the event is a highlight for many tailgaters, including the Donohos. “Our group vastly ranges in age, and that’s one of the best things about the day – it is so much fun for everyone!”
Elizabeth and Michael Dougherty have had a lot of fun with their tailgate themes over the last 20 years. Last year’s Russia theme spawned some traditional food favorites, from peasant food to caviar, derived from the varied cultures across the country. And one menu they particularly enjoyed was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. Food selections that year were based on the final dinner menu on that fateful night.
This year the Dougherty’s World Cup theme offered their guests the opportunity to represent their cooking skills and heritage. “Every year, although you would think coming up with a theme would get harder, but it just gets better,” said Michael Dougherty. Wife Elizabeth would agree. “I love watching a theme come to life. We are lucky to have such great friends who not only enjoy a good party but are great cooks!”
Wilmington resident Gaile Ashe, her son CJ and several friends enjoyed a tailgate spot on the southern rails this year. To her, Point-to-Point means more than the afternoon with friends. “I love that Point-to-Point is the premier special event that kicks off the best 60 days in Wilmington. We are really excited about the Wilmington Flower Market, the Grand Prix weekend, the Clifford Brown Festival, Jazz Fest and the Italian Festival,” said Ashe.
Virtually all hosts agree that Point-to-Point is one of their favorite things to in Delaware — an event that brings friends and family together in a way unlike any other. Already excited about next year, Carrie Wedo sees no end to the time-honored tradition. “Our hope is to always be there every year and that one day our kids will take over the labor intensive part of the event and we will be their guest!”