Anyone who’s lived out here on the East End and enjoys horses (or a glittering social scene) has memories of their times spent at the Hampton Classic. My memories go back to before it was the Hampton Classic we all know and love today. As a young rider I remember driving out in the front seat of a horse trailer to Topping Farm for a summer show. Forty years ago, who knew this was the beginnings of the Hampton Classic Horse Show?
Once my mom moved to Southampton (1980), we went to the Hampton Classic at Dune Alpine Farm—again, nothing like the show you see today, but it was officially called the Hampton Classic, and by 1982 it was relocated for the final time to its present location on Snake Hollow Road. By 1988 I was living out here full time, too, and covering the show for the Sag Harbor Express (which I did for about 10 years). All told, for the last 24 years I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Hampton Classic on a regular basis.
My memories of the show range from the worst sunburn I remember getting as an adult (after sitting in the bleachers Grand Prix Sunday sans sunblock), thru “hosting” a VIP table in the pouring rain to enjoying a lovely Hunt Breakfast with good friends and lots of champagne.
I remember when the show took place at the end of July and when one end of the VIP tent was where the stands are now. I had a front seat in the first-ever Press tent (when it was on the other end of the ring) and I was in charge of a table in the USET tent the year they put a floor in (I was thrilled). I also recall the first year Robbins/Wolffe became “official caterer,” as I was working in the Special Events office at Southampton Hospital back than. Robbins/Wolffe had just catered the Hospital’s “Summer Party” for I believe the second year. Tony Hitchcock called my boss for a recommendation, which she asked me to supply (as I had worked with them very closely). I’m sure their stellar reputation made them the logical choice and Tony was just being cautious, but I still pat myself on the back when I see the amazing job they do catering this enormous event.
So my memories of the Hampton Classic are deep and varied and I enjoy remembering all the different experiences I’ve had attending one of the largest outdoor horse shows in the United States for almost a quarter century. However, what stands out more for me on a daily basis are not my memories but my mementos of the Hampton Classic. You see, when you are part of the Press Corps or you are in charge of a table under the Grand Prix tent, you often get to walk away with something more tangible than visions in your mind.
Of course, every year I buy a t-shirt or two (I think I have about 20 that are still wearable), and there’s my favorite Hampton Classic coffee mug, and I think a mouse pad at some point also. I used to buy every Hampton Classic poster but ran out of wall space and started only buying the ones I really couldn’t live without. Right now only one hangs on my walls at home, but I’ve “donated” a few to the walls of Dan’s Papers office and several more are stored away. My husband’s favorite polo shirts are from the Hampton Classic as well.
But even more fun than those items I’ve bought are the things I’ve collected that I didn’t have to pay for. For instance, I still use a “Crown Royal” canvas bag from 12 years ago and tote my towels on my boat in another canvas bag. I keep duplicate credit cards in a leather pouch given out by champagne Louis Roderer several years ago, and a bud vase that I think was from Calvin Klein sits on my windowsill. Until last year I used a spray bottle I got in my Press bag whenever I ironed (it finally broke but I saved it anyway), and a canvas Wathne bag holds my favorite scarves as it hangs on the back of a door.
Then there are the picnic baskets… For a few years the real estate firm I worked for (Cook Pony Farm Real Estate) ordered the fried chicken basket a few days a week during the show. At the end of each day we’d take leftovers back to the office in the different baskets that were provided. I have a very nice collection of these—two of them function as laundry baskets, another holds logs by our fireplace and still two others are used as, well, picnic baskets.
While the Hampton Classic is a once-a-year summer memory for hundreds of thousands of people, I live with my mementos of the Classic all year long. I wouldn’t have it any other way.