Tailgating at Kentucky Downs: ‘Like being at an SEC football game’

August 31, 2022

FRANKLIN, Ky.— Reserved seats in Kentucky Downs’ Finish Line Pavilion remain available for purchase for six of seven days but are sold out for Sept. 10. Tickets are sold in advance in tables of eight or groups of four online at kentuckydowns.ticketspice.com/tickets. Individual tickets will be sold both online and at the track on race day as inventory permits. Tickets include a lunch buffet, afternoon snacks, and an open bar.

There also is free general admission at the top of the stretch and tailgating on the far turn. There will be self-betting stations as well as mutuel clerks in the area, along with a bar and merchandise table and food trucks. In addition, guests who are 21-plus are welcome to go into The Mint Gaming Hall and take advantage of their food and beverage services as well as the second-floor simulcast area.

Tailgaters are permitted to bring in their own food. Among those making an annual tailgating pilgrimage is Bernie Eldridge of Little Rock, Ark.

“I’ve met so many people there,” Eldridge said. “We’ve got friends from Alabama who now come to Oaklawn Park since we met them at Kentucky Downs. I just love it because it’s great horse racing. I get to see my (Southeastern Conference) fans and horse-racing fans. Nothing better. It’s kind of got the county-fair atmosphere with it. We really enjoy it. In fact, one of our friends from Alabama called me last night and asked ‘What time are y’all getting there?’ We always go the last weekend, that Saturday and Sunday.

“I try to get there about 8, 8:30 on Saturday morning, so we can get one of the first spots. I usually have a Razorback flag. It’s just everything: the camaraderie and I’m an outdoor person. It’s good fellowship, just being there on the rail. The atmosphere. It’s like being at an SEC football game.”

Barry Northern comes every year with friends from Louisville. When hotel construction forced the general admission area to be moved to the top of the stretch last year, Northern’s group opted to buy reserved tickets on a weekday. They enjoyed the experience so much that this year they bought tickets for this Saturday, getting a table for eight in the Finish Line Pavilion.

“For us, it works out well with it being an all-inclusive package,” Northern said. “From Louisville, it’s a nice little road trip. We’ll go down there and spend the night and drive back the next morning.

“It’s been the last five or six years for me. Some of the guys I go with, it’s been longer for them. We have some friends from Rhode Island who have come down the last three years to meet us there. I love the atmosphere there. As a horse-racing fan, there’s nothing anywhere similar to it. The racing just doesn’t get much better. They come from all over for this meet. The best of the best are out there. It’s such a unique track with the up and down. It’s so much different than any other track you go to.”

Kentucky Downs Press Release

Photo: Bernie Eldridge (in red) gets to Kentucky Downs early to get a prime tailgating spot. Courtesy Bernie Eldridge

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