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La Jolla Mom

How to Throw Your Hat into the Ring on Opening Day at Del Mar

It’s the 20th anniversary of the Opening Day Hats Contest, a Del Mar horse racing season tradition. The first official hat contest kicked off in 1995 and the hats have only gotten more and more ornate and outrageous every year since then.

Entrants sometimes spend months planning for the grand event with some going to great expense to achieve a stunning or over-the-top design. Winning hats often make appearances on local news stations and certainly in print. But do you know how to enter, what the prizes are and exactly what the fuss is about?

How to Enter the Opening Day Hats Contest

Go to Plaza de Mexico, located inside Stretch Run admission gates between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to enter (near the big fountain). There’s plenty of signage available… you can’t miss it.

Opening Day Hats Contest Categories

Entrants throw their hat into (sorry, could not resist) one of five categories:

  • Best Racing Theme
  • Funniest/Most Outrageous
  • Most Glamorous
  • Best Flowers/All Others
  • Best Fascinator

Hat Contest Prizes

In addition to a few minutes of fame, there are prizes to be won. Each category offers winners the following prizes:

  • First place – $300 plus a $100 gift certificate prize from salon sponsor, Studio Savvy
  • Second place – $200
  • Third place – $100

The coveted Bing Crosby Grand Prize winner (best overall hat) will receive a two-night stay at The Grand Del Mar plus dinner for two (valued at more than $1,000) along with a $500 gift certificate from local hat sponsor, The Village Hat Shop.

It’s a Tradition

Call it fun or just an annual habit, wearing a hat on Opening Day of the Del Mar races is just a festive thing we do, regardless if we’re participating in the contest or not. In a pinch? Stop by Jill Courtemanche Millinery in Solana Beach to see what she has off-the-rack. Have fun!

Now, who is headed to the races in an outrageously fabulous hat? Do share.

Photo credit: Flickr/donabelandewen, Creative Commons 2.0

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