Crackdown: Not your father's Foxfield
Ever since the ABC put Foxfield's liquor license on probation in 2003, the racing association has been trying to move away from its image as the spring scene of collegiate debauchery.
Its efforts apparently have not succeeded.
Despite hiring 100 private security guards for last spring's race, Foxfield president Benjamin Dick cites an incident of a law student who had a fight with his girlfriend. "It got out of hand," says Dick. "Students were throwing beer bottles."
"We've seen an escalation in unlawful behavior," echoes Albemarle police Captain Crystal Limerick. "It was overwhelming. We could not do what we needed to."
Last week, county police announced they will join forces with the ABC, Virginia State police, and Albemarle sheriff to crack down on alcohol violations at this year's April 29 race– a move Foxfield officials say is long overdue.
"When Crystal Limerick said, 'We need to help you,' I had to pick my jaw off the floor," says Dick.
"We've been asking them for years," agrees Foxfield director of racing Patrick Butterfield.
In the early days of Foxfield, Albemarle Sheriff George Bailey policed the race with a handful of deputies.
In 1992, Albemarle police Chief John Miller kept his officers outside the Foxfield gates.
"I didn't have the resources to handle inside and outside traffic," he told the Hook in 2002, "and I determined very fast I didn't have the resources to handle the drinking inside."
"Many years ago, a court decision put our officers at risk to enforce the law on private property," adds Limerick.
So what changed?
Limerick contends Albemarle police have always had a presence inside Foxfield. "But not enough of one to take control... We're there to stop Easters. That's what a lot of people have made it," she says.
Easters, aka the Mud Bowl, achieved national notoriety for its debauchery before UVA abolished the annual multi-day party in 1982.
Despite contentious relations in the past, it's a veritable love fest now between Foxfield, Albemarle police, and the ABC.
"We're very pleased to have four law enforcement agencies," says Dick.
"I can say Foxfield is a willing partner," says Limerick. "They have been thrilled. They exist to put on a steeplechase."
The 200-strong law enforcement will have zero tolerance for drunk driving, underage drinking, and fights at the April 29 race. "We're going to absolutely crack down," promises Limerick.
A satellite magistrate will be on premises to speed the booking of violators.
And Albemarle zoning officials will be on hand to remind private property owners it's illegal to charge for parking on their property, Limerick adds.
"It adds to the traffic problem," she says. "It puts more foot traffic on Barracks Road."
Another target to rein in raucousness: Foxfield has contacted motorcoach companies across the state and warned them that any busload of drunk students will be turned away.
"You are not allowed to come to Foxfield drunk," says Dick, and police and ABC officers will board the 120 or so buses to make sniff out violators.
Students of legal drinking age must stow their booze under the bus.
Georgetown University, according to Foxfield officials, is the worst offender. "They have mimosas and Bloody Marys, and by the time they get here, they're three sheets to the wind," notes Dick.
"It's going to be a different Foxfield," Butterfield promises.
UVA students at Foxfield, circa 1993, demonstrate irresponsible drinking.
FILE PHOTO COURTESY JEN FARIELLO