Familiar chaos reigned at 7 this morning at the Saratoga Race Course.
At that hour, more than a hundred people who had been lined up for more than an hour at the Union Avenue main entrance rushed into the grounds when security guards allowed them in. All were aiming to secure prime picnic tables for the for the first day of the 144th season at Saratoga. People, some who have made this a track tradition, ran and yell in their quest for a spot.
Over at one of the Nelson Avenue entrances, Steve Grosso, of Rockland County, had been lined up since 5:20 a.m. He chose this entrance, which is slightly off the beaten path and not near prime real estate, to avoid the traffic at the main entrance.
“The reason why we came early, with the weather so good and it being opening day, we thought it would be crowded…We were the first ones here and we got nervous that things had changed,” he said, explaining his trepidation when he realized he was the only early bird.
Grosso and a partner calmly hustled into the grounds when the gates opened and secured three picnic tables for 15 people who will be coming later. He commented on how well the honor system works in Saratoga, with people able to reserve picnic tables for hours simply by leaving a cooler or tablecloth on it.
He talked like an old professional about preparing the tables, citing his love of clips that hold the tablecloth down. “You can go thumbtacks or tape, but clips are the best,” Grosso said.
Other people prepared even more elaborate setups, as they hoisted large tents over tables.
Over at Pies on Wheels, which is part of the track’s backyard food destination area by the carousel, owner David Britton was firing up the oven for a day that he expects will result in hundreds of pizzas being sold. He was very excited about being part of the quality offerings in the backyard and characterized it as “the valley of fine foods.”
New this year, and already very popular, was the expanded awning at the track’s first-floor breakfast area. It was packed by 7:30 a.m.
Follow David Lombardo for updates from the track today at @Poozer87 on Twitter.