On May 8, 1907, August Belmont gave a dance and cotillion in the Turf and Field Club at Belmont Park prior to that season’s racing. Supper was served at midnight; trains to bring guests home departed at 3 a.m.
Belmont’s guests, I think it’s safe to say, enjoyed themselves, entertained as they were by a live orchestra playing some of the host’s favorites, hobnobbing with the social elite in the inspiring setting of Belmont Park.
For the 10th year, the Belmont Child Care Association hosted a holiday party for the children of the backstretch workers; thanks to generous donations from BCCA supporters and the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots program, the children could browse among thousands of gifts, picking out presents to put under their Christmas trees, before being permitted to choose one gift for themselves.
Dozens of volunteers acted as Christmas elves, escorting students through the room and wrapping and labeling packages; as children waited to come inside, they were entertained by a balloon sculptor and ate donated cookies and Christmas treats.
The little ones clutched lists with the names, ages, and sizes of family members; as I escorted Kelly into the room, her eyes widened at the display, and when I asked for whom she wanted to shop first, “Mommy!” was her decisive and exultant response.
Siblings shopped as their parents waited outside in the lobby, darting around tables and hiding their selections from each other so that the gifts would be a surprise on Christmas morning. They deliberated over options: would Papa like a watch or a sweatshirt? Would my sister like this sweater or that necklace? I didn’t hear a single child ask to choose her own gift before shopping for her family.
Thanks to everyone who contributed generously to make this event such a success, and especially to the New York Racing Association for contributing the space, the ornateness of which made a special event even more festive, as we looked out from the fourth floor onto beautiful Belmont Park, as August Belmont’s guests did.
We didn’t have an orchestra, or a special supper, or a train just for us. But I’ll bet that August Belmont would have smiled to see the children glowing with holiday spirit, no less merry than his guests were more than a hundred years ago.
The good photos here are courtesy of Lili Holzer-Glier; the mediocre ones are courtesy of yours truly.