The Peoplechase 5K challenged runners to compete on the same grass turf as the horses. A few runners chose to leap the hurdles as well during the three circuits of the track.
Atlantan Rich Yarbrough, 40, jumped every hurdle on the course and was the overall first place finisher in less than 23 minutes. He celebrated along with 28-year-old Atlantan Lauren Aschmann, who was the first overall female finisher, by doing cartwheels on the track.
“That was a blast,” said Yarbrough. “That was not easy.”
The steeplechase brought out a record crowd that included more than 20,000 general admission sales, according to Jean Bird, executive director of the event.
“Everything has run perfectly smooth,” said Bird. “It’s been fantastic.”
Top horses and jockeys from across the country competed around the track that included four steeplechases and one turf race as people mingled and gathered in tent parties across the course.
Groom Hawkeye Eley of Camden, S.C., grinned and landed a solid pat on the shoulder of Tizallaboutme after the tall bay captured first place in the Maiden Claiming Hurdle.
“I feel real good about him,” said Eley. “He does what you ask of him, good to work around, good at relaxing and likes to have fun.”
Fun was the main event at Kingston Downs, located off U.S. 411 on the Floyd County-Bartow County line.
Feathers, lace and sparkles blazed off hats during the traditional hat parade as a large crowd gathered to photograph the competitors. Rosettes were awarded to first, second and third place winners in the whimsical, beautiful and children’s hat caterogies.
Mary Johnston of Roswell cheered as she won first place in the whimsical hat contest with her handmade Elvis black straw hat outfitted with blue and silver lace that took her two hours to make. She said it was her first time ever competing in a hat contest.
“The fact of the matter is I didn’t do this to win,” said Johnston. “I’m the biggest Elvis fan. A lot of people pay to have theirs made but mine came from the heart.”
Amy Kippels of Roswell watched her three-year-old son Cameron Kippels throw checkered bean bags during a corn hole game by their picnic area in the infield. It was her first time attending the event and she said her husband encouraged her to come as he first attended when he was six years old.
“The weather’s been great,” said Kippels. “We’re having such a good time. It’s very family friendly.”