Fillies, Frocks and Fascinators

In only its second year, the Geoje Melbourne Cup luncheon has become the hottest ticket in town.

Off the back of its success in 2013, tickets to this year’s event sold out in just four days.

One hundred women – up from 70 the year before – descended on the waterfront venue, Hello Stranger in their finest frocks to enjoy an afternoon of good food, wine and company, and a flutter on the horses.

The event has become so popular that local business has benefited – fascinators were bought or made, hairdressers were asked to open at nine on the day, and local beauticians noted an increase in nail and lash appointments in the lead up.

It didn’t happen without effort though.  A committee of 13 worked tirelessly since September in designing the theme, organising the venue, preparing food and coordinating door prizes.

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The grass walkway was donated, the picket fence was made by a volunteer, and table greenery was plucked from the roadside – actions that took time and dedication in an effort to hold an elegant event and keep costs down.

Whilst the committee had no prior concerns about selling the tickets, they did worry that expectations might not be met.  Head of Committee, Jeanette Kelly says, “This year, we had far more Australians attending and because they know what it’s all about, we were nervous that some might be disappointed”.

Clearly, this was not the case.  The wine flowed well into the evening and music and dancing started not long after the major race.  There may have even been a few injuries L

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Hello Stranger was selected because the committee is essentially given free run of the venue.

“We are able to bring food in and set it up as we wish.  Because they also speak English, we were able to easily coordinate wine orders and extra staff with them”, said Jeanette.

Not only were attendee numbers up, but so too, was the opportunity to bet.  Twelve sweepstakes were on offer, up from just four the year before.

“We learnt a lot from last year about what worked well and what could be better.  Last year, we had committee members circulate the room offering the sweep but this meant people missed out.  Having the dedicated tables meant everyone got an opportunity to bet if they wanted”, said Jeanette.

Guests were greeted by a large centre table of finger food.  Bar a few ordered trays, all food was hand made by the committee.  And it wouldn’t be an Australian event without meat pies and lamingtons.

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Jeanette says that the handmade food from last year’s event was such a hit that it made sense to do it again.  “We figured if we were making it ourselves, we knew what we were getting rather than relying on businesses to cater for it”.

No Melbourne Cup event is complete without ‘Fashions on the Field’, this year judged by two men brave enough to enter a room of drinking women.  Matt Hyde and Ziek Scott did a highly admirable job of circulating the room and identifying finalists.  The Best Dressed award went to Tania McIlveen.

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With all the work required on the day, does the committee actually get the chance to enjoy themselves?

According to Jeanette and Geana, “Absolutely!  It’s such a success because it’s a chance to dress up, be ourselves, and have an adult conversation and some fun.  It’s all about the girls”.

As one who attended and was amongst the last to leave, I can vouch for the fun day (or what I can remember of it).

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Note: this is an edited version of an article written for Geoje News.

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