My first introduction to the Radnor Hunt Races came 20 years ago this month. I was muddling through my first weeks as a cub reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Neighbors section when the assignment came my way: I’d have to spend a glorious spring day soaking up some of the region’s most bucolic scenery amidst the classic cars and lavish tailgate spreads of a modern-day Main Line gentry that knows how to party in style.
I’d spent most of the spring of 1989 covering bone-dry planning commission meetings for various local townships, so I was overdue for something a little more festive. And knowing this would be my first Inky story with actual photographs, I prepped accordingly. I had my silver Hyundai Excel hatchback washed and waxed; I brought out my finest (read: only) blue blazer, and had my khakis pressed and drycleaned. Heck, I even shined my Dexter loafers.
It was a warm day with plenty of sunshine—not always the norm in early May. I remember parking in a gravel lot and ambling down a soggy hillside and into the fray. Two decades later, the rest is a blur of awkward introductions, handshakes, smiles, laughter, fine food … and mint juleps.
That evening, I returned to the newsroom energized, with a pad full of notes—none of which would’ve made sense to anyone but me. It was a Saturday night; the place was empty. My story was due the next morning, and I hammered away on the keyboard with four fingers until 2 a.m.
For the most part, my editors liked what they read—plenty of Main Line color, they said. My one regret is that I never crossed paths with George Alexis “Frolic” Weymouth, a close friend of the late Andrew Wyeth and a regional fixture renowned for not only his exploits in sporting and equestrian circles but also his land conservation efforts along the Brandywine River. As I write this, I’m anticipating my first run-in with “the fun du Pont,” whose quirky, life-affirming essence senior writer J.F. Pirro captures so wonderfully in this month’s feature, “Old Man River.”
This year, Weymouth is hosting the Radnor Hunt Races Preview Party & Auction at his famed Big Bend estate in Chadds Ford. (The races themselves will be held May 16.) While I’m there, I hope to shake his hand. Because, frankly, I can’t think of a more fitting way to celebrate the 20th anniversary of my first Hunt.
A JOB WELL DONE: Congratulations are in order for Main Line Today contributor Robert Yearick, whose December 2008 story on Dr. John Kelly (“Surgery Is Not Funny”) won first place in the 2009 Delaware Press Association Communications Contest. Check out the winning piece.