Thanksgiving Day at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots is a venerated New Orleans tradition going back more than 150 years. More recently, it has spawned another tradition in Mid-City that goes back three years: the Human Horse Races.
Although Thanksgiving is no longer the actual opening day of the local horse-racing season (that happened Nov. 18), the Thanksgiving Classic always draws crowds the Fair Grounds. They enjoy the races, the betting, the holiday spread, the cocktails and — mostly — the fabulous hats. It’s another chance for locals to indulge in costuming and to show off their creativity.
Down the street in the far humbler Easton Park on Thanksgiving, the Human Horse Races features races, betting, a vegan food truck, cocktails, a live band — plus fabulous hats and costumes. The races consist of costumed human horses sprinting their jockey to the finish line.
Human Horse Races kicked off in November 2019 to a crowd of more than 300 people. The organizers aim to provide a free, family friendly, Thanksgiving Day alternative to the race tracks.
Human Horse Races, according to the event’s website, was formed to raise money and awareness for local animal shelters and promote cruelty-free experiences, while celebrating in classic New Orleans style.
All donations benefit local animal and wildlife rescue initiatives. The 2022 beneficiary will be Greeno Equine Sanctuary in Leblanc, Louisiana.
The festivities include races with children and adult humans running as well as riding. Audience members can purchase betting tokens to place donation bets on the horse they think will win the following round. Winners of races receive prizes, and betters receive a chance to win a mega-prize.
There is also a costume contest with three categories: Best in Show, Most Dapper and Top of the Hats.
The Dapper Dandies, a local traditional jazz band, will be providing the sound track and dance inspiration between the races.
The kids’ races this year will be on a separate pony track. They take off at 11 am, followed by the adult races at noon.
Entry is free, and beverages will be available. Easton Park is bounded by Toulouse, North Rendon, St. Peter and North Lopez streets.
The horses Thanksgiving revelers can bet on include Euterpe “The Stud” Gallivant, a descendant of the famous actor Mr. Ed; Thunder Buckets, who claims to be a direct descendant of Thor, god of thunder (but nobody really takes him seriously); Debra the Zebra, a freelance blogger and roaming existentialist; Benny Lava, the bestial byproduct of an acid-fueled Woodstock orgy mix-up; and Frisky Ménage, a resourceful vagabond.
For more information, head to www.humanhorseraces.com or the Human Horse Race’s Instagram or Facebook page.