“Don’t forget to see the hats”, called my mother as we headed out the door to go to the horse races.
Never ones to pass up the opportunity of a gathering that combines animals, fried food and ice cream (more about that in Having a Field Day), how could we say no to a day at the races in Te Teko, a small town of less than 1,000 people in the Bay of Plenty?
The streets of Whakatane, the district centre, were positively buzzing about the big opening meet. Admittedly mostly the buzz was about getting buzzed and arranging for designated drivers and vans. This seemed to bode well for a fun day out.
Classic New Zealand country racing is at its best at the smaller race courses which seamlessly merge horses, sports, social celebrations and fashion. Te Teko hosts three races each year—late January, March and June—for the Whakatane Racing Club. The key date is the Auckland Anniversary Weekend races held this year on 1 February.
In addition to 9 races, the most interesting action was off the field with fashion competitions, including mens’ and womens’ hats. Lots of hats. Both women and men put real effort into their millinery constructions…..and some didn’t.
An overcast summer’s day with showers threatening didn’t dampen the spirits of determined party makers at the first fixture of the year. My mother attended the races in the 1940s and our photos showed that her memories of the day stayed fresh.