Hampton Classic Memories Inspired by Grand Prix Sunday

The Hampton Classic holds so many memories for me that each year as I drive by and see that small “village” being erected on Snake Hollow Road I experience something that feels like having your life flash before your eyes—the readers digest version.

Long before I moved to the East End I came out for the Southampton Horse Show at Dune Alpine Farm.  That first visit was probably 1976 while I was riding with Smoke Run Farm in Stony Brook. A few friends were riding in the show and I went along as a “groom.” That remains a cherished memory, as my best friend, Anne, and I had the most fun we’d ever had at a show—and as I recall, she got one of her first ribbons that day.

After my mother moved out to Southampton in 1980, I’d visit and catch a day of the show here or there. Once I was living in Sag Harbor by 1984, I made sure I caught the Grand Prix from the bleachers each summer. In 1988 I began working for the Sag Harbor Express, and for the next 10 years (even after I’d moved onto a new job) I covered the Grand Prix for the Express.

As the years went by, I got to experience The Hampton Classic as an employee of the Special Events Department of Southampton Hospital (one of the longest-standing and largest beneficiaries of the Hampton Classic) and as Marketing Manager for two different local Real Estate companies who were Hampton Classic sponsors. Now in my role at Dan’s Papers I over see the use of our two tables and help make sure things go smoothly for our guests on Grand Prix Sunday.

I have so many memories of the Classic that I began trying to narrow it down to just one single memory that held the most magic for me. Not an easy task.

Celebrity run-ins are always a highlight. Like the time I didn’t realize I was standing next to and trading opinions on the show with Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfah.  When you’re concentrating on an exciting Grand Prix class, a couple of jean-and-baseball-cap-wearing folks you happen to be standing next to don’t draw your immediate attention. It wasn’t until the cameras arrived and they vanished that I realized whom I’d had a “classic moment” with.

There was also the time I almost got to offer Christie Brinkley a glass of water, until then-husband Billy Joel came to her rescue. Christie was coughing, probably due to some horse show dust, and clearly needed a glass of water right away. Billy managed to grab a small bottle before I could get any words out of my mouth So all Christie and I shared was some friendly eye contact as she eyed the large pitcher of water with lemon we had on our table. I’ve chatted with Cliff Robertson, gotten out of the way for Mayor Bloomberg and entourage, and told James Lipton how much I enjoy Inside the Actors Studio. I’ve also seen some of the most amazing riding you can imagine; nail biting jump-offs, back-to-back Michael Matz Grand Prix class wins, and lots of rain and mud.

Then there was the year I spent running around with the Cook Pony Farm Real Estate Tiffany Silver Cup for the Best Pony in Show award (loved that silver trophy).  I had met up with photographer Barry Gordin, who was shooting the presentation for the company, and we had about 20 minutes before they announced the winner. I told Barry I’d be right back and ran to the concession over by the Main office for a coke. On my way back, I wasn’t looking carefully where I was walking and suddenly a baby stroller came into my vision—I brought myself up to a quick halt and looked up to see a very familiar face from my past.

There before me was my former childhood next-door neighbor and fellow horseback-riding best friend, Anne Sipperly—now Anne Braswell, the same Anne whom I’d been at Dune Alpine with. Anne and I were put into a playpen together when we were babies (our birthdays are four days apart) and spent the first 17 years of our lives as best friends.  We began riding together at 9 years old and spent the next eight years as total horse fanatics.

I knew Anne had kept up with her riding and ended up as a well-respected rider, trainer and equitation judge. I also knew she had married another well-known name in the horse world, trainer Bobby Braswell. However, it had been over a decade since we’d been in touch. Here she was, with her newborn baby daughter strolling around the Hampton Classic grounds while her husband worked with some of his clients over at the Grand Prix ring. Seeing Anne at a horse show, surrounded by that life we’d both loved and shared for so long, was very special for me. Meeting her baby daughter, Molly, was just the icing on the cake.

Every year, The Hampton Classic comes to town and makes new memories for the riders, the Classic staff, the families hanging out in the bleachers and VIPs under the Grand Prix tent. This year I’m sure some of my special memories will include the amazing table decorations Dan’s Papers has planned, and certainly the new friends I’ve made who are responsible for those decorations. But when it comes down to one special moment, I’d have to say it was running into Anne. I’ll always thank the Classic for tossing my horseback-riding camp cohort and childhood best friend in my path that steamy hot Sunday some 15 years ago.

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