The Galway Races: What’s it all about?
Poster: Jamie Costello
Suits and ties, hats and heels, fashion and fake tan, swarms of people, early mornings, late nights, lengthy queues, even lengthier waiting times in said queues for drinks, more barrels of Guinness than you can shake a stick at, BUT the best craic in the best little city in all of Ireland …oh yeah, and horse racing!
“Not long until the Races now”; a phrase that seems to be muttered by local Galwegians, well, pretty much all year round. Regarded by many, The Galway Races is the biggest event Galway hosts in the yearly calendar. With over 150,000 people flocking to Galway for this mid-Summer festival, everyone and the dog shows up, even his holiness Pope John Paul II made a visit to the racecourse in his day; I don’t think he was much of a gambling man though.
But I digress, as if this city wasn’t spirited enough; Galway practically bursts at the seams during this week. Every nook and cranny of Eyre Square is made full use of and every cobblestone of Shop Street is slightly worn down from the constant stiletto abrasion.
But let’s get back to the actual races. The world famous Ballybrit Racecourse bends its knees and straightens its back in order to hold this influx of designer clad, race-card scribbling, Galway Races enthusiasts. They come in their droves to compare attire, place a few bets and just “have the craic”.
Speaking of craic, the mad hatters’ competition happens on the Sunday of race week. With pretty top notch prizes up for grabs it’s no surprise that people put a lot of time, effort and creativity into their headwear. With contemporary, modern, traditional, classic and even avant-garde creations (them ones just go right over my head) the fashion is most definitely on show.
The renowned Ladies Day on the Thursday attracts more than any other day with prizes going to the best dressed ladies. This is of course the same day as the famous Galway Hurdle which is (before we lose the run of ourselves) the main attraction. With 150,000 people attending this week, and €1.8m in prize money accumulated, this is big business and is, at the end of the day what the buzz is really all about. Whether you are betting €1 on the outsider, or gambling the mortgage on the favourite, the Galway Races fever takes over the city on this week…not that I condone gambling the mortgage!
Once the races finish for the day, the army of race goers begin to fill the empty spaces in the pubs and streets of Galway. Maybe your wallet is plump with cash and the drinks are on you, or you are drowning your sorrows after getting a little too carried away at the bookies, but the obligatory after-races drink is for the most part, the done thing. With so many top class pubs, hotels and music to be found in Galway, of course the night life is second to none throughout the week. An Pucan bar on Forster Street opened up an amazing new beer garden just in time for the races this year and it was definitely one of the places to be!
Galway’s West End in particular has embraced the crowds with street parties over the Bank Holiday weekend putting on free outdoor gigs with top class bands such as Hermitage Green and the Roisin Dubh’s Silent Disco Street Party has become synonymous as the place to finish off the week. Tone deaf? Doesn’t matter… Everyone is wearing headphones so you can sing till your hearts content!
So to conclude, what IS it all about? Well I think it’s about making the most of an opportunity to enjoy Galway, its people, its places, its culture and vibrancy and the illustrious and very prominent Galway City craic!
Have I done enough to convince you to make a visit to the Galway Races next year?
For more information on the Galway Races – check out their website: www.galwayraces.com
Jamie Costello is a Sales & Marketing Executive at Galway Bay Hotel.