Kenilworth Racing is anticipating a crowd of over 5000 people at Kenilworth for the Prawn Festival
Saturday will be the seventh consecutive time that Kenilworth hosts the Cape Town Prawn Festival and events officer Clinton Theys, who has been working at the course for the past ten years, is aiming for a record crowd.
The first race is off at 12h45 and there are four features on the day, headlined by the Gr2 Diadem Stakes. The gates open at 11h00. Entrance is free.
“The idea is to keep people entertained while they are here and I always believe that their day starts in the parking lot,” he told Michael Clower as he outlined his marketing strategy with all the fervour of kid entering a sweet shop. “Coming in from the Wetton Road side, you walk through the market and, as you do so, you are already getting some sort of vibe of the excitement.”
This is the Barn Market which Theys used to boost the crowds during the Durbanville season and add atmosphere to Guineas day. “You move from there into the eventing area, you purchase your prawns – this year there is also a variety of other sea food, get your kids sorted out in the entertainment area and then you’ve got seating, shading and everything you need plus R70 000 worth of prizes.
“These giveaways are household appliances which seem to be the favourite for draws other than a car. But when you have a car you only have one winner and we are trying to spread the love. At the end of the day all the tickets go back into the drum – just one entry per person – and the winning ticket gets one prize of R20 000 worth of appliances.”
Not a word about the racing you will note. The critics regularly seize on this point and every year the crowd – usually second only to Met day – is tinged by negative comments about the event doing nothing to attract people to racing and little to boost racecourse revenue.
Theys is used to it and he strongly disagrees. “Before the Prawn Festival started there were no people at this meeting. Last year we had over 4 000 through the gates and at any given time there were plus or minus 2 000 of them here. On Saturday, despite the difficult economic times, we are hoping to have between 4 500 and 5 000.
“We particularly want to encourage people who have never been to a racemeeting before. I know admission is free but people add value and atmosphere, and they have a positive effect on turnover. We are giving them a taste of what racing is all about as well as letting them know that it is open to everybody – not just for the elite as some critics were saying last month – and that it is about celebrating the equine factor which, for me, is the key element. It’s not just the racing, there is something about the horses that attracts you.
“Kids get excited by them and that in turn excites the parents. You will hear a father say ‘My son loves that horse, let’s put ten bucks on it.’ These small bets are racing’s bread and butter. So why charge the people to come in? We want them here, we want to introduce them to horseracing and show them a different world – and that’s what racing is, an entertainment but an entertainment with a difference.”