November – the height of the Spring season. Nothing gets in the way of its traditions, including work. Well, almost. On the first Tuesday of every November, the seventh race at Flemington in Melbourne is known as the Melbourne Cup. If you are staying in the Mornington Peninsula then it is a great opportunity to participate in an exciting day and experience a little bit of history. It has been running since 1861 and over the years a certain tradition has developed on this fine day. Ladies wear their new hats and frocks for an all-day strolling fashion show. Some guys wear outfits they wouldn’t be caught dead in at any other time or place, be it outrageous or impossibly British formal. The champagne flows, bands play, celebrities mug for cameras and money passes the tote.
A grand diversion with a grand consequence. So focused on frivolity (instead of working) were the residents of that city that it became an official day-off work holiday. Woo hoo, no more need to think of a bogus reason to skip work to watch the ponies! But why celebrate this two mile race in just one day? The party at Flemington lasts for a few days, giving ample opportunity for corporate sponsorship and desperate to be seen glitterati to milk it for all it is worth.
“That’s Melbourne,” you might say. Why would other states care? Well, everyone wants a shrimp on this barbie. And as no one else gets the day off from work, they take the party to work. Every workplace has some sort of race sweep going. Walking through the Central Business District of any city are many ladies wearing fascinators (a mini-hat of frothy feather and ribbon) fluttering like butterflies on the side of their heads. Party pies, cake slices and the occasional bottle of bubbly appear in work lunchrooms—proper accoutrement to the race doubtless playing on every available television screen.
It is often referred to as the “race that stops a nation.” Indeed, for a short while, it is. While you make think it is odd that a people would take a day off work for a horse race, Melbournians think it odd that on this very same day Americans do not get the day off to vote on Election Day. Go figure.