Gonzales firefighters have a day at the races

Stephanie Hopkins
Firefighters and guests of Mayor Barney Arceneaux visit on the patio of Mike Anderson’s before heading off to the race track.

A benefit to raise money for the Gonzales Firefighters Association was held Friday, March 6 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds. The annual event was first started under the administration of former Mayor Johnny Berthelot and continues under Mayor Barney Arceneaux.

The day started with a gathering on the patio at Mike Anderson's in Gonzales. It was a beautiful warm day, and everyone dressed in their Sunday best, mingling with their choice of drink from the bar. At 9 a.m. the bar was mostly serving mojitos and mimosas. The guests made their rounds making sure to talk with Mayor Barney Arceneaux and former Mayor Johnny Berthelot.

It was a very relaxed atmosphere until a pick-up truck hit a limo right out front. The accident became the hot topic until about 10:30 a.m. when it was time to head to the track.

I found the New Orleans Fairgrounds a pretty awesome sight, having never been there before. A large building several floors high sat next to the huge race track. We entered what we thought to be the main entrance and ended up getting carded so we could walk through the casino. When we emerged at the other end we were asked for our tickets and tagged with a sticker.

An elevator took us to the fifth floor, the Clubhouse. Seated in a prime position, lined up with the finish line, we started looking over the official program. Everyone was talking about how to pick the winning horse when the National Anthem started playing. We immediately stopped, stood up and sang along.

Lunch time! Red beans and rice, salad, and french bread were on the buffet. Waiters walked around serving drinks. When we heard the sound of the bugler, we knew it was time to place a bet for the first race. The horses and jockeys made their way out to the field and onto the track. After warming up and stepping into the gates, the last horse was in and they were off.

My horse, No. 3 She’s a Cat Five didn’t place. No. 6 Dear Grace came in first.

For the second race, I decided to pick a first time starter No. 2 Rambunctiously who came in third.

The excitement built with each race, and everyone was on their feet, arms raised, screaming their horse’s number.

By the sixth race, everyone was pumped. This one was our race, the one dedicated to the firefighters. Bets were placed, and firefighters, the mayor and former mayor, headed down to the track to watch the race. No. 4 Morality and jockey John Jacinto won the race. After a quick photo with the jockey, everyone headed back upstairs for the final four races.

By the ninth race I decided to look at jockeys instead of horses. Jockey Robby Albarado was having a good day, he had five races, four first places and one fourth place. Too bad he wasn’t in the ninth or tenth race. For the tenth race I picked No. 4 Lucky Apalachee, who came in second.

After the final race everyone talked about what a great time they had, said their goodbyes and headed back for Gonzales, stopping at a restaurant for dinner on the way home.

The calm before the next race, deciding which horse to bet on.