On an ordinary day, it takes two minutes to drive from Route 29 to Saratoga’s main gate via East Avenue. This morning, the same route took 35 minutes. It’s giveaway day, and the spinners are out in storm to bring home today’s featured item, a red Saratoga lawn chair in a handy carrying bag.
All fans will receive one chair free with paid admission, but may also buy up to five more at a special booth. There are about 72,000 chairs in stock, and racing pundits expect today's attendance to best the largest in Saratoga history - 71,337 for a wall clock giveaway in 2003.
In the picnic area, where long queues are forming, the crowd is as dense as the regular post-race mash of revelers at Siro’s.
A few comments from the crowd:
“This is insane!”
“Ten times bigger than blanket day.”
“After all this effort, I’m putting my two together and taking a nap.”
“They’re everywhere; when I was walking in there were people going down the street carrying ten.”
“Red, red, red.”
The purpose of giveaway day, of course, is to draw fans into the track and bolster attendance. This morning, it seems to be working. Sure, people pick up their chairs and leave – but the area around the paddock is full of remaining chair-getters.
If you have to attend the races on a giveaway day, this is probably the one to make – a red lawnchair will do more for your afternoon comfort than an Angel Cordero bobblehead.