Chapeau contest caps opening weekend
SARATOGA SPRINGS Five-year-old Frank Potter of Duanesburg looked pretty snazzy at Saratoga Race Course on Sunday in his custom-made hat.
He was one of the shorter contestants in the 22nd Annual Hat Contest, but the fancy headgear gave him at least an extra foot.
The contest capped off opening weekend of the track’s Saratoga 150 celebration in grand style, with 202 participants competing in three categories: “Uniquely Saratoga,” “Fashionably Saratoga,” and “Kreative Kids” — the category Frank was signed up for.
The little boy’s sandy hair was barely visible beneath the black brim of his fancy chapeau. Above the brim sat a bed of red silk roses, topped with a large papier-mache horse’s head made out of a map of Saratoga Springs. The horse was wearing its own black top hat, adorned with the number “150” in gold glitter.
Frank finished off the ensemble with a white, button-down dress shirt, black shorts and cowboy boots. But there was no smile on his face. The hat was too hot, he said, tugging at the white satin ribbons that secured it beneath his chin.
Despite his discomfort, he was a good sport, and lined up with the group of 43 kids who came out to show off their fancy hats in the competition.
The hats came in all shapes, sizes and stretches of the imagination.
One boy had a blue baseball cap with a racehorse galloping across the brim. Another wore a hat made from a lampshade that had a row of Twizzlers hanging off the back.
Maddy Stillman of Gansvoort had a carrousel on her head.
“It captures the beauty of Saratoga and it has, like, horses on it and I worked really hard on it,” the 13-year-old said, as she held her hand up to touch the tall, pointy, Styrofoam-based structure with racehorses prancing around the brim.
Next up was the “Fashionably Saratoga” category, which drew 108 contestants, many dressed to the nines. The contestants’ glamorous headgear was adorned with everything from pheasant feathers to live flowers.
Daisy Besemer, 84, of West Lebanon beamed beneath her pink, glittery hat, waiting for her turn before the judges.
Her head wear, which was made by her son, Jim, started with an old black fedora. Jim piled it high with pink feathers, glitter and lilies. His mom’s bright smile added extra sparkle.
Besemer’s competition included Frenchy Loeb of Saratoga Springs in her “Honey Doo Beehive” hat, which she shaped out of a stiff fabric called sinamay.
The wide-brimmed hat was wrapped in black, yellow, brown and white organza and embellished with faux honeybees.
Loeb also decided to enter her masterpiece in the “Uniquely Saratoga” category, “because I’m uniquely Saratoga,” she said with a grin.
The “Uniquely Saratoga” category drew one participant with a three-layer-cake-hat, and another with a “Winners Circle” scene the size of a 24-cut pizza box on her head.
There was a cigar-themed hat and one with a realistic-looking horse’s head.
And then there was Donna Cerasulo of Gloversville, who used an umbrella for the foundation of her “Waltz of the Flowers” hat.
Her super-sized creation included silk flowers, pink satin and tulle, black lace and CDs, used to catch the reflection of the multicolored lights that rimmed the extensive brim. In her hand she held a tape recorder that played Tchaikovsky’s “Waltz of the Flowers.”
“For me, it’s choreography, movement, it’s musical. I have my lighting tech here,” she said, pointing to the ring of lights on her hat.
After the contestants paraded before the judges, a winner was chosen for each category, along with two finalists.
Frank finally cracked a smile when he won first place in the “Kreative Kids” competition and was handed a gift bag of prizes.
Besemer was brought to tears when she found out she had placed third in the “Fashionably Saratoga” category.
“I’m so happy. I can’t believe it. I won a horse race, too — $31 on a $2 bet,” she said.
First place: Frank Potter, 5, of Duanesburg
Second place: Eleanor Slezak, 7, of Amsterdam
Third place: Lorelei Brennan, 4, of Saratoga Springs
First place: Michelle Hogan of Brunswick
Second place: Rose Poole of Amsterdam
Third place: Daisy Besemer of West Lebanon
First place: Kathleen Christopher of Saratoga Springs
Second place: Carol Slezak of Amsterdam
Third place: Annemarie Mitchell of Stillwater