Many years ago, there was a Carolina Cup race director who insisted that every person in attendance was there to watch the horses run and that none of them were interested in the social aspects of the day -- or in taking a drink. That, of course, wasn’t close to true, and there’s a reason that the Cup has often been called the largest outdoor cocktail party in South Carolina. It is indeed a social occasion, and the consumption of alcoholic beverages has always played a part in its success. And yes, there always have been people who have taken things to an extreme, many of them college students who tend to overindulge -- both before and after arriving at the Springdale Race Course. Of course, thousands of people attend the race each year who don’t drink at all, so we don’t mean to imply that there’s a bacchanalian frenzy.
Sheriff Jim Matthews announced recently that stricter measures would be taken this year to control underage drinking and to patrol the areas for those who were too rowdy. He said so-called “cooler carriers,” people paid to haul coolers into the area -- sometimes, in the past, for underage patrons -- would be banned, and checks of coolers would be made to ensure laws were being observed. Rumors sprang up on social networking sites, and some became apprehensive that law enforcement officers would be arresting everyone whose breath sported a bit of bourbon.
A story in Wednesday’s Chronicle-Independent pointed out that while law enforcement authorities will indeed be on the lookout for underage drinkers and for those who have overindulged to the point of being disorderly, they aren’t going to be trying to spoil the social aspects of the race. A sure point of much of the scrutiny will be College Park, the special section that is reserved for college students, who tend to be less restrained than other patrons. As both Matthews and race director Jeff Teter agree, there’s not much way to argue in favor of underage drinking. After all, it’s against the law to drink alcohol if you’re not 21 years old, and it’s against the law to be drunk and disorderly. Enforcement of those measures is just and appropriate.
We don’t think Matthews is out to spoil everyone’s fun. He says he doesn’t plan to stop vehicles to check coolers, but random checks of people carrying them into the race area on foot will be made. That’s reasonable. And Teter makes a good point when he says race patrons need to look out for each other, taking care of friends who might have had one too many rather than letting them become unruly and ending up in the hoosegow. We don’t think anyone’s trying to shortstop people’s ability to have a good time at the Carolina Cup, rather just to make sure laws are observed and things remain well in hand, especially in College Park. That should ensure safety, as well as a good time, for everyone present.