Doing the Durban July in style

2019-06-19 06:01

JULY fever will take hold next month as Durban’s Greyville racecourse welcomes over 60 000 people to the 123rd edition of the greatest fixture on the racing and social calendar – the Vodacom Durban July (VDJ).

Primping and planning at the various venues at the track is well underway, with numerous options ranging from trackside all-fall-down parties to lavish lounges now on offer to punters ready to enjoy the Stars of Africa theme, which guides all the fashion, hospitality and décor elements on the day.

The rush for the golden ticket to the best experience at this fashion and entertainment extravaganza is officially on as track tickets go on sale and sought-after spots at hospitality venues get snapped up.

Companies and social racegoers looking for private totes and bathrooms, full catering, a complimentary bar, waiter service, plasma screens and the best views to enhance the experience can pay between R3 000 and R5 000 per head for various hospitality options, with arguably the best being on the grandstand side.

Local racing and entertainment doyenne Sharon Saunders passed her passion for the races on to her sons, Neil and Chris Theron, who say her fervour for creating the ultimate race day experience is the reason they will again be entertaining 1 000 guests in lavish style at the family-run OneStop Hospitality lounge.

A fixture at the races since 1994, OneStop has been in various sites and now has the ideal position in the grandstand, offering the only dual view of the parade ring and the finish line, 50m away.

“We started out in the first trackside marquee in the early 90s,” explains Neil Theron. “We then moved from the Silver Ring to the Gold Ring on the grandstand side and for several years we constructed a tent each year. Fifteen years ago, we transformed a large underutilised training room on the upper level into our fabulous permanent venue for guests to experience the thrill of thoroughbred horse racing.”

The investment paid off and OneStop has earned the hotly contested Best Hospitality Venue award eight times.

Theron’s team is on-site from a month before, working tirelessly to deliver the perfect experience.

“Our interpretation of the theme is always elegantly brought to life, keeping the client’s needs for glamour, comfort and seamless personal service in mind. We’re thrilled to be bringing a richly South African flair to the Stars of Africa theme this year, using bold local prints, unique artwork and striking lighting to delight the senses.”

Theron says the July has changed considerably over the last five to ten years.

“We’ve seen the crowd burgeon to record numbers as it has grown from just a few marquees and picnic sites to a heaving tent town in the central area – with the sponsorship of major party tents such as Heineken BoomTown having a huge impact. The focus has really shifted to entertainment, fashion and social aspects. While betting is still a big part of it, with over R26 million spent just at the track, I think many partygoers on the day may not even see a horse!

“The opening time has been extended to 11 pm so the parties can continue, although the races finish long before this.”

Popular OneStop packages sell out fast, including club packages, open air picnic sites and indoor full house packages.

Other hospitality options on the track side include glass-fronted marquees the Pegasus Lounge Trackside and Beluga.

The Glenlivet Jazz town in partnership with Mzansi Magic this year offers guests an opulent marquee with live jazz entertainment in the field area. And of course, Heineken BoomTown offers live bands and a major party on the grass.

Visitors can also enjoy the catering on offer from a fleet of trendy food trucks at the new lifestyle village close to the Action Stage.

While most visitors travel from Gauteng, pumping money into the local economy in the quieter winter season, Theron says new direct flights from Durban to the UK mean that international patrons are catching on to Africa’s greatest horse race. “Visitors from Europe can jet in and enjoy this race day, as they would do at events like Royal Ascot and the Cheltenham Festival in England. Attracting international patrons will go a long way to positioning the VDJ on the same level as other top global racing events like the Dubai Cup, the Kentucky Derby and the Melbourne Cup. Offering truly world-class hospitality facilities is of course an essential part of this.”

And Theron’s advice to potential punters? “Know what you want out of the day and book in advance! If you want a sophisticated environment to enjoy the thrill of thoroughbred horseracing without tangling too much with the big crowds and queues, it’s worth spending that little bit extra with an experienced hospitality provider. And for corporates, this kind of experience is a fantastic incentive, networking opportunity and treat for customers and staff.”

— Supplied.

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