Skimpy crowds at fall Foxfield

Has the anti-drinking crowd succeeded in crushing Foxfield? On Sunday, the quiet fields, line-less port-a-johns, and absence of vehicular traffic seemed to tell a story. Indeed, according to Foxfield's boss, approximately 3,000-4,000 people attended, significantly fewer than the typical crowd of 5,000-6,000 at past fall "family day" versions of the semi-annual steeplechase event.

"We probably had less people then we normally do because there were so many activities going on this weekend– Dave Matthews Band and George Clinton, among others," says Foxfield Racing Association President Benjamin J. Dick.

The crowd of mostly parents and children who did show up were not shortchanged. More than 80 horses took part in the steeplechase races over the course of the day.

"We had to create a seventh race to accommodate all of them," Dick says.

In recent years, Foxfield has come under fire for allowing underage alcohol consumption, although the primary criticism has been levied at the spring running of the races that has served as a de facto "Easters" party since UVA cancelled that celebrated spring event nearly 25 years ago.

Other bummers included cancellation of a planned race day chili cook-off, and a $125 per person Rescue Squad/Foxfield gala that had been slated for Thursday, September 21.

One of the factors that may have limited ticket sales to the September 24 event was Foxfield's decision, after the drinking criticism, to require advance sales of all tickets. Weather forecasters had called for rain.

However, for most of the event, overcast skies provided pleasant picnic temperatures. Although there was light rain for about 15 minutes toward the end, all races went on as planned."The weather held back till the end of the day," Dick says, "then it rained like cats and dogs."