Before I moved here, a friend who had lived here for several years told me that Thanksgiving was his absolute favorite holiday in New Orleans. Not Halloween, not Fat Tuesday, but Thanksgiving. He’s from Arkansas, and has family in Mississippi, but he said he would never ever be anywhere but here for turkey day. Intrigued, I was most curious last Thanksgiving, which was my first one as a resident here, and indeed, my first Thanksgiving ever spent in New Orleans. And I have to say I agree with him. It’s an amazingly fun day here in the Big Easy, and I was looking forward to this one even more.
So why’s it so special? Well, for one thing, there’s the delicious brunch always thrown by another friend, who lives near the race track. Gumbo, creme brulee french toast, cheese grits, baked ham, stuffed bell peppers, stuffed mirlitons, tossed back with shots of chilled Bailey’s or champagne and oj… Perfect start to a Thanksgiving morning.
Then, there’s the track itself. The horse races kick off at 11AM Thanksgiving morning, and people flock there, thankful, I guess, for the chance to place a little wager or three on the ponies. Me? I’m not much of a gambler, but I was thankful for the number of folks who take their horse racing fashion very seriously. Big hats, small hats, outrageous outfits, elegance — it’s all out there. And I love to look at it all, as well as dress up myself. It’s fun, milling about, sipping on something cold, people watching, stopping to watch the horses run around the track, and taking a moment pre-race to survey them as they parade them around the stables. This year it was 80 degrees plus, which made it feel not entirely like Thanksgiving, but it was a beautiful day nonetheless, with the sun peeking through the clouds every now and then.
Post-track this year brought a twist for New Orleanians, thanks to the Saints playing the Cowboys Thanksgiving afternoon. So folks found places to watch the game, and eat some more. It’s a fun day here, in part, because it feels very local. I know people do come in from out of town for Thanksgiving, but at the track anyway, it feels like it’s a secret, fun little holiday just for us. And it makes me happy to be a part of it, and thankful to live here and know so many amazing, lovely, funny, kind people.
Here are a couple shots I took that day, that hopefully convey what it’s like, at least a lil’ bit. Hope your Thanksgiving was fun, too.