Tip: navigate using the ← left and right → arrow keys
Today 50,000 people from Hoboken, Manhattan and Morristown made their way to The Hunt at Moorland Farms. The weather was absolutely perfect! if you couldn’t make it out we’ve got pictures of all the action.
Hobokeni.com: Each year in late October the residents of Hoboken board trains, buses and cars to journey westbound on Route 78. The destination? Picture Yuppie Woodstock meets The Dukes of Hazzard meets an open casting call for St. Elmo’s Fire…the New Class. The tailgating event is The Far Hills Race Meeting, but to most it is simply known as “The Hunt.”
Ostensibly, the Hunt is a Breeders Cup Steeplechase Race, a big deal in the world of horse racing. The Hunt website, describes the day as a “a world-class event that mixes society and sport.” The October 19th affair attracts over 50,000 people to its annual location at Moorland Farms, with approximately 49,990 of those 50,000 from Hoboken, Manhattan and Morristown. Of the 49,990, 94% rent summer beach houses in Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Manasquan and Long Beach Island. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to have your social life flash before your eyes, wander around the Hunt for an afternoon; you will likely run into every single person you have ever known since Social Studies class.
The Hunt may appear to be about an afternoon of foliage, friends, hay, horses, Corona and Cabernet, but most in attendance don’t even get a glimpse of the track or are even aware a race is actually happening. This day isn’t about society or sport, but rather to serve as an anecdote for two people to tell their future grandkids that they didn’t meet at a bar or beach house, but while discussing Iraq and wine tasting at The Hunt. Based on observations from past experience here, it appears all involved that aren’t “involved” are on the prowl for future companionship.
Call it the Mission For a Winter of Missionary.
If you love the scent of the fear of loneliness, autumn in Hoboken is starting to reek like two-week old Monterey jack. You can particularly see the quiet desperation for post-summer partnership in the eyes of the female 30-and-older crowd. Remember that Friends episode when Rachael—on her 30th birthday—tried to calculate how many years it would take to meet a man, get engaged, plan a wedding, get pregnant and have a child? If you missed that one, or a frontal lobotomy still has you somehow watching Survivor, Rachael’s end answer was age 35. She wasn’t terribly happy about it.
“The days grow colder, suddenly you’re a lot older” is the way Sinatra describes a winter of “ordering orange juice for one.” Hoboken’s singles, including the men, are already feeling the chill. No guy wants to be out some Saturday night in January at Miss Kitty’s with a 7-to-1-guy/girl ratio working against him. Winter’s slower metabolisms force the borderline attractive over the wrong side of the fence. The cutesy Irish pinkish hues of August become as white as the background of the page you’re reading. The time to gather as many quality digits as possible may effectively expire after October 19.
The thrill of the shore house fling is already one month in the rearview mirror and the prospects for 2003 are an entire hockey season (including playoffs) away. Temporary fixes don’t cut it: A December getaway in South Beach ends fifteen weekends short. The ski house scene is a fatigued one-night affair due to the 10 hours of round-trip travel time. The Hunt is seen as the last and best chance to find someone to make it a Blockbuster Night with.
The HFBO invariably begins at 9:30 AM. Buses and trains stocked with Mimosas and Irish Coffee leave from Hoboken train station and its adjacent parking lot. After a 40-minute ride to Far Hills and a 30-minute wait in traffic to get near the farm, the festivities begin approx. at 11 AM when most are already 3 cocktails into their day before disembarking.
Tailgate space is reserved ahead of time and each area is separated by hay bales. The drinks vary…but a solid majority of the women go with white wine and the boys go the beer route. Hay and fire don’t mix, so the day is catered with less flammable sandwiches containing every meat ever known to man. “Borderline edibles” are the two words that come to mind.
If it’s a warm day, repeated refills can go to one’s head quickly… and that’s when the Kodak moments begin. It’s always been the contention of the author (and about 3 billion others) that alcohol is not consumed because it tastes great or is less filling, but for the inflated sense of self-esteem that you can’t find in the ingredients. The Hunt is a place that, unlike the saloons of Hoboken, has plenty of light and is devoid of dancing or loud music. Refreshingly, it is a social mechanism that depends solely on (gasp) quality conversation and an ability to innocently crash other tailgates. This all tends to occur more easily when someone else (see: Alcohol) is doing the talking.
After a day of wandering from bail to bail and sharing something in common with those on the A&P lines for the Port-o-Johns (“You really have to go? Wow, me too! So, what’s your email address?”), the day usually ends with the sun setting behind the rolling hills quickly. A once beautiful farm resembles Tora Bora after an allied bombing.
The buses and trains proceed to carry their cargo back to Hoboken for a sloppy evening in the Mile Square. The difference between the non-Hunters and Hunters is as recognizable as the difference between Rutgers football and Miami. Predictably, the night usually ends earlier than expected.
But the next morning, as the sun blinds your eyes and you feel like you’ve brushed your teeth with a Snickers Bar, hope may suddenly overcome you.
Maybe, just maybe, there is a new number stored in a cell phone, a crumbled business card in the back pocket, or perhaps a strange purple mark on a place only a turtleneck can hide.
“Grandma and Grandpa met at a horsey race,” your grandkids will say someday.
Sure…you keep on believing that.
Joe Concha is a weekly contributor for NBCSports.com and a BI-monthly feature writer for Hobokeni.com. He will be signing copies of this article at tailgate location 1085 and 1086 at the Hunt.