Park After Dark: Tweetup at Northlands Park

Something Mack and I have wanted to do for ages in Edmonton is watch a live horse race. Though my only exposure to horse racing in general is watching the Triple Crown on television, we knew Northlands Park had a reputation for putting on a good show (and those tongue-in-cheek commercials with aptly named horses like getoffthecouch probably didn’t hurt either). Fortuitously, the Park was hosting a tweetup on a Friday night two weeks ago. We signed up through EventBrite and hoped for the best.

We rode the train over to Northlands (though I know it’s obvious, it would have been nice if transit was mentioned on the EventBrite ticket, instead of only listing the availability of free parking), and walked through some of the preliminary Capital Ex set-up on our way to the Park. Once there, we found quite a happening space.

Park after Dark Tweetup

Park After Dark

In an effort to attract a younger demographic, and to de-mystify the aura around horse racing, Northlands transforms into what they bill as “Edmonton’s largest patio party” once a week in the summer. I was really amazed at what some cushy rattan furniture and a live DJ could do to transform the uninviting pavement into a sun-drenched lounge. The Park in the Dark series, which takes place every Friday through to September, also features a free shuttle to The Pint.

Park after Dark Tweetup

The DJ was nice enough to invite us to have a photo taken

The entire patio is licensed (and also serves up a casual barbecue menu), but patrons of all ages are permitted. This translated into quite a diverse range of parties – from families with young children to the bar crowd to older couples. In many ways, Northlands has done a great job to make it a destination for almost everyone.

Park after Dark Tweetup

Lounging al fresco

They even had a few hilarious bouncy ball races down the track between races, similar to the silly competitions hosted at other sporting events at half time.

Park after Dark Tweetup

In it to win it

Of course, part of the intention behind the tweetup was to teach those of us racing neophytes how to place bets. We had missed the initial group lesson (5:30pm was much too early to begin the formal program), but it actually worked out for the best. We were hooked up with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide, who took some time to go through the rudimentary elements of a wager, as well as some of the statistics to look for (e.g., jockey’s record, horse’s lifetime record, horse’s record at Northlands Park). In the end though, he encouraged us to have fun with it – sometimes the best wagers are made on superficial elements like the names or colour of an animal (Cathy has a cheeky breakdown of more random betting schemes).

Park after Dark Tweetup

Justin was a good mentor!

All guests of the tweetup received a free $2 wager, but we were lucky enough to receive an additional $25. With that, we were able to play around quite a bit with the types of bets we made – from choosing a jockey with a winning streak that night and the horse with the best record to a horse with a memorable name (“Dream Nettie”, in our case, who reminded us of our Belua Designs creation). It was definitely hit or miss, but cheering for our horse to reach the post was made that much more exciting with money on the line!

Park after Dark Tweetup

Here they come…

Park after Dark Tweetup

Right in the action

At the end of the day, we made slightly more than what we wagered, which is all we could have hoped for our first time out – call it beginner’s luck!

Park After Dark

Mack’s all smiles with his highest winning ticket

Thanks to Northlands for putting on a great tweetup, and for helping us get our feet wet in the world of horse racing!

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