The Legacy Chase at Shawan Downs in Cockeysville, Md., is an opportunity for fans of steeplechase racing and families who just want to enjoy a pleasant outing to take in a colorful and exciting sport. But the event is also an important fundraiser for a serious cause: the fight against cancer.
Legacy Chase, held Sept. 24, marks the beginning of the fall steeplechase season as it kicks off a 10-week schedule stretching from northern New Jersey to Columbus, Ga. For the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, better known as GBMC, it serves as a chance to celebrate cancer survivors. And for the Guinness Book of World Records, it represents another day at the office.
It's the 16th annual Legacy Chase event -- and the third year it will benefit GBMC's oncology services -- however, this year, GBMC will take it one step further by looking to beat the Guinness World Record for the longest awareness ribbon by placing a lavender ribbon stretching 1.5 miles through the Shawan Downs infield. The ribbon's hue, on first glance may please local football fans who associate purple with the Ravens, but more broadly, lavender honors those suffering from all types of cancer.
"It is about people coming together, and there's lots of different kinds of cancers and different treatments and different things people go through, all ages and walks of life," said Dr. Paul Celano, director of the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC. "It's actually been a lot of fun; people really have embraced this."
"We've passed out portions of the ribbon to various places," said Heidi Kenny-Berman, a GBMC philanthropy committee member and the 2016 Legacy Chase event chair. "We were very impressed with the amount of enthusiasm in response to people wanting to participate and be a part of it."
For some, the world record attempt won't even be the highlight of the day.
"These races are really the only opportunity, in the fall, that the general public gets to see steeplechase racing in the state of Maryland, so there is some uniqueness to it," said Charlie Fenwick, a founding member of the Land Preservation Trust that saved Shawan Downs in 1997 and steeplechase purist himself. "[Shawan Downs is] almost entirely dedicated to equestrian events -- and it itself is quite unique."
With five races over timber hurdles -- the feature race stretches more than three miles -- and a sixth on flat ground, half of the event's eight-hour schedule features horse races. Well, that is if you are forgiving the time allotted to one of the event's most tried and true traditions, the annual kids' Stick Pony Race.
"Shawan Downs, it's a beautiful place. It's serene," Kenny-Berman said. "[For] a lot of people who aren't or haven't been exposed to horseracing, it's [an] opportunity for a fun-filled day, and it's not just focused on horses. We have a lot of activities for families."
The event is expected to draw between 5,000 and 7,000 people. Gates open at 10 a.m. with world record judging at 11:30 a.m. Opening ceremonies are at noon and the first race is at 1 p.m.
This all runs concurrently with tailgate festivities, a Vendor Village, food and family activities. But all of this fun is also a means of educating and raising awareness for an issue that notoriously affects countless people.
There is a wide range of ticket packages, from $35 to $1,500. A $35 parking pass admits a carload of guests to the lot. A $50 ticket allows for a carload admission, parking and the opportunity to tailgate. Prices will go up the day of the event. More information on the variety of tickets available can be found at legacychase.org
"Everybody's been affected [by cancer] in their own way, and I'm no different from anybody else," Fenwick said. "I have a great affinity for the sport, and at the same time, I've been very involved with [GBMC] for the better part of 20 years, and I'm devoted to the hospital and the people that are there. So an opportunity, for me, to pull those two things together is really terrific."