Alice Fish observed her 73rd birthday in April in Indian Lake.
She celebrated in August at Saratoga Springs — with her favorite girls.
It was a breakfast date. Alice, her daughter Peggy Evatt and granddaughters Emily and Maggie Evatt were up early for the big buffet at Saratoga Race Course.
“This breakfast is awesome,” said Indian Lake resident Fish, who was up at 4:30 a.m. to make the scrambled egg scene on a Saturday morning. “They have everything I like to eat. And I asked for a little maple syrup for my sausage and I got a beer cup full.”
“Breakfast at the Porch,” located on the lower tier of the clubhouse, has become a tradition for both locals and visitors. Track side tables give people the chance to watch horses jog and sprint on the main track, and become part of the Saratoga social scene. The buffet is open from 7 until 9:30 a.m. every racing day of the meet except Travers Day. Prices are $17.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids aged three through 12.
Stephen Travers, vice president of hospitality and guest services for the New York Racing Association, said the buffet does not change much from year to year.
“We try to keep the menu refreshed all the time,” Travers said. “We have people who come every year — some people come every day, some people come back every week. So it’s a constant challenge to try to make sure the menu stays fresh and we have enough new things. There’s a lot more fruit this year.”
For Alice’s birthday celebration, the menu included white bowls full of strawberries, blueberries and melon slices; wicker baskets full of apples and oranges; scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon; seafood Benedict; home fries; orange juice; sweet rolls; and coffee. Mimosas and Saratoga Sunrises — the race course’s signature vodka, orange and cranberry juices and fresh fruit drink — were other options.
Travers said business has been booming this summer. “We’re 20 percent over the amount of people from this point last year,” he said. “We’re averaging about 600 a day.”
For some people, the buffet is more than just breakfast. Cathy McKenna of Saratoga Lake was part of the Saratoga Lake Association’s “Bonnets for Breakfast” party. The gang has been on the dawn patrol at the race track for the last three summers now.
“It’s just to come out and see the track and get everybody up here,” said McKenna, part of a 22-member association contingent. “We can enjoy the track in the morning before the crowds get here.”
Uma Jain, visiting from Dallas, Texas, was in the bonnet bunch. “It’s wonderful, it’s a festive atmosphere,” Jain said. “Everybody looks good and there’s the friendliness.”
Others join the breakfast club for family reunions. Kathleen Kennon of New York City liked the seafood Benedict — eggs with a layer of crab meat — but she also liked hanging out with parents Mary and James Shea of Buffalo and her sister Clare Shea of Southhampton.
“It’s great being so close to the track,” Kennon said. “You can see the horses up close.”
Nobody on the porch complained about the early hours required for a Porch appointment. “I can’t wait!” Mary Shea said, from the family’s front row table. “It’s exciting! I start out enthusiastic!”
Chris Kemmerer of Saratoga Springs brought company.
“It’s really nice for the family setting,” he said. “We live close by, and when we have company, it’s a great place for the kids. They can run around a little bit.”
Alex and Grace Whatley of Schenectady like the horse- and people-watching aspects of the breakfast gathering. Alex liked all the families out for the morning; he also liked the idea that hosts and hostesses escort dining couples and groups to their tables.
“You feel honored, like a guest,” Alex said.
“Where else but Saratoga?” Grace said. “It’s so beautiful here in the summer.”
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter. His blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/wilkin.