Whatever you’re doing this summer, clear your diary for the last week in July - the Galway Races summer festival should be the only thing on your list of things to do even if you wouldn’t know a stirrup from a stallion. From veteran race-goers to people who just enjoy a great day (and night) out, thousands make the journey to Ballybrit every summer for this unique racing festival. It runs for seven consecutive days at Galway Racecourse from the last Monday in July, so make sure you book your holiday home on Places to Stay in plenty of time.
Forget about the competition on the racetrack – the most keenly contested prize at Ballybrit every July is the award for the best-dressed racegoer. It’s not all about the bling, either: Contestants must consider what kind of hat will hold up against the Ballybrit cross winds and which high heels won’t give in when the going is soft. Sponsored by Anthony Ryan Ltd of Shop Street, Galway, the competition takes place on what is traditionally known as Ladies’ Day on the Thursday of the summer festival meeting and offers a generous prize fund for the winners both of the Best Dressed Competition and the Best Hat Competition.
Former winners include Carol Kennelly from Tralee, who used her cash prize in 2008 to complete a millinery course and then set up a hat business. Two years later, Ann Marie O’Leary from Camp, Tralee, wore one of Carol’s designs to win the Best Dressed title in 2010, making it a Kerry double. It’s not just about the ladies, either. Though the Thursday of the summer festival meeting is still known as Ladies’ Day, the competition for the most stylishly garbed individual is now called the Best Dressed Person Competition, so there’s no excuse not to arrive in style.
Prizes are generous, and there’s also an award for the best hat, so that new outfit could reap rewards. In the past, winners have walked away with diamond jewellery, vouchers for shopping sprees, and thousands of euro in cash prizes. You don’t have to register for the competitions, as the judges keep a keen eye on the crowds and select their finalists. If you are keen to be considered, you should get to Ballybrit early, as the finalists are generally picked by 2.30pm.
Simplicity is key. Too much is never a good idea.
Wear something you are comfortable in.
Elegant shoes are a must, but make sure you can walk in them! (Keep plasters and gel pads in your handbag just in case).
Bring a brolly. Always. (This is Ireland)
Details matter. Focus on gloves, bags, jewellery, and shoes – but don’t go overboard.
Grooming is important. Make sure your hair, nails, and makeup are immaculate.
Think appropriate. Judges are looking for an outfit that is suitable for the day. Remember you are at a race meeting – not a night club.