Festival brings out their best

A total of 8000 punters turned up to the two-day Interislander Summer Festival at Richmond Racecourse, drawn by blue skies and an exciting lineup of events.

Event co-ordinator Chris Butler said gate takings and hospitality spending last Friday and Sunday were up since last year, and Nelson Harness Racing was happy with the outcome.

"It's certainly a popular event and those who come to the races support it well," Chris said. "Obviously we put in a good order for the weather and that helped."

Temperatures reached a peak of 25 degrees Celsius on the hottest day, Sunday, but Friday also hit 23C, testing those who went for glamour over practicality. Nelson's Profile boutique sponsored a "Best Hat" competition on the first meet, with More FM judges awarding a $250 voucher to winner Carol Merrilees, $150 to runner-up Eileen Bruse and $100 to third place-getter Amy Hendy.

"People can go with a crazy hat or what they call a couture hat," Chris said. The event was inspired by a similar promotion held at the famous Kentucky Derby, saying the harness-racing club wanted Friday to have a theme to balance out Sunday's popular Richmond Mall Fashion in the Field event.

More FM promotions manager Dan Tipping said there were not as many people wearing hats as he had hoped, but he had noticed a "big range of colours".

Dan said the judges looked at intricacy, arrangement, how well the hat matched the wearer's outfit and how eye-catching the overall effect was.

Brightwater woman Sarah Earwaker, 17, won a $1000 Richmond Mall voucher, a magnum of Lindauer and $200 worth of Oxygen skincare products when she won Best Dressed Female in Richmond Mall's Fashion in the Field competition.

"I was just so excited, and a little bit shocked," she said.

Because it was her first time at the races, she had asked friend and neighbour Jenny Woods to help her put it together. Jenny also made it through to the final stage of the competition.

"Since I'm only 17, she got my magnum of wine," Sarah said.

Sarah's dress, clutch and shoes were all on loan from Jenny, and the fascinator was from Nelson store Tula and Niles. Jenny and Sarah had added foil and beads to the fascinator to make it match the silver theme of the other accessories.

Sarah said she did not know what she would do with the rest of her winnings, but planned to give Jenny $200 worth of vouchers to thank her for her guidance.

First runner-up was Angela Miller of Stoke, and Julie Penman of Atawhai was third. Nelson's David Hope won a $200 Richmond Mall voucher, a magnum of Lindauer and a $200 Oxygen skincare package as top prize in the Best Dressed Male section, and the two runners-up were Nelson men Simon Merry and Hayden Campbell.

Face-painter Sarah McCabe was kept busy with a steady flow of children on Friday. She painted a fairy on four-year-old Stacey Way's cheek and her grandmother, Nicky Baker, of Richmond, said it was Stacey's first time at the races, and explained that summer racing was part of their family's traditions.

Activities for children included the Tip Top moonhopper race, a sack race, "Kidz Kartz" races, a bouncy castle and lolly scramble.

Richmond 13-year-olds Samantha Guard and Teigan Papps were also spending their first afternoon at the races on Friday, attending Samantha's mother Lee Guard's hen's night. They had enjoyed dressing up for the occasion.

Nelson Harness Racing Club promotions co-ordinator Bill Monk said it felt good to be back at the track after a winter without any racing. He said he and the other volunteers worked to put on racing meets solely because they enjoyed it, and events like the Summer Festival let them share their passion.

Bill said crowd numbers were up since last year, although he expected more people to come on Sunday.