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Starlight Racing Shines Bright On Friday

After writing about the New Orleans Saints getting to and winning the Super Bowl over the past couple of weeks, I promised I'd get back to talking about racing, in particular about trainer Helen Pitts-Blasi, with this blog. Well, I'm gonna go back on my promise, sort of, for another week. I've talked to Helen and have the necessary information to tell you about her and her Fair Grounds venture, but I gotta talk about this past Friday night's "Starlight Racing".

This past Friday was the second of three scheduled "Starlight Racing" programs, with the final offering scheduled for March 19th. The first "Starlight" card on January 19th was fun, but had a lot to overcome. A power failure and a torrential rainstorm caused post time to be delayed from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and that was enough for patrons and potential patrons to make last minute changes to their plans and simply not attend the races. Nonetheless, races were run, Drago's chargrilled oysters were served and The Wise Guys performed and entertained a pretty lively crowd in the clubhouse. Everybody in attendance had a great time.

This Friday was perfect for "Starlight Racing" for a lot of reasons. First, and foremost, we're still celebrating the Saints' Super Bowl win, another perfect Mardi Gras Day and season have come and gone and the Saints won the Super Bowl -- oh, I think I've mentioned that already. The weather Gods were smiling down on us and blessed us with picture-perfect weather and the people came - and they came in droves.

The atmosphere was very different from a normal Friday, or for any normal race day for that matter, and for fear of sounding like a cornball -- the best way to describe the feeling was electric. The vibe could be felt throughout the track from everyone from regular patrons, to casual patrons, to first-timers, to track employees. It was a welcome change to what can sometimes be just a ho-hum type of Friday.

Because of the great weather, patrons, including my wife Jeanette and I, were able to roam around the race track and get a feel of the whole experience. Being around the paddock and outside near the rail had the feeling of a Derby or Champions Day. Action appeared to be steady in the Miller Beer Garden tent and the chargrilled oysters prepared by Drago's were again a huge hit. Hopefully, many of the people that seemed to be having a great time were experiencing Fair Grounds racing and hospitality for the first time and will be back for more in the coming weeks.

After cruising the grandstand area, we met some of our friends, the Scheuermann family (Joe, Shelly, Tyler and Nataly), Darren Dares and Shantel and Brittlyn Lanerie in the clubhouse where a party-type atmosphere was just getting cranked-up. When the Bucktown Allstars took the stage at 6:00 p.m. the mood of the crowd really started to change - to a celebration-type of feeling. I'm ashamed to say I've only heard the Bucktown Allstars band on a couple of occasions, but this Friday night they really came ready to rock. Their choice of tunes from K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Kool and the Gang, Earth, Wind and Fire and similar groups were attracting even some of the regular clubhouse old timers to the dance floor.

We took a little bit of a break from the music around the 4th race and headed-up to the suite level to visit Stanley and Sandee Seelig. Stanley and Sandee's guests were family members and friends and I think the feeling on the entire suite level was that of a holiday-type program. The Seeligs, always very generous and gracious hosts, treated everyone in the suite to Drago's chargrilled oysters, which were devoured in a very short time. I couldn't help notice from the suite level that even the clubhouse dining and box seating area's were buzzing with people.

Back down to the clubhouse for the 7th race and people were still flooding in with only three races to go. We were running out of races to watch, but the energy level was rising quickly, all because of the Bucktown Allstars. The music tempo was fast and furious and the crowd was packing the dance floor for every song. In fact, the response to the band was so energetic that management extended their playing time an extra hour to keep the party going. Even though the races were over, the party continued for another hour and everybody loved it.

Overall, I think the response to this week's "Starlight Racing" was really positive and it's a great idea. Jeanette and I saw friends and people at the races we haven't seen since before Hurricane Katrina, which is how we guage time now. I hope this is just the beginning of a new group of racing fans getting a taste of the Fair Grounds and old fans coming back to get reacquainted.

I hate to wish for time to pass by quickly, but I can't wait for the next "Starlight Racing" program on Friday, March 19th. It's a great time and it even rejuvenates an old race track veteran like me.

Next blog will be about Helen Pitts-Blasi, I promise.