‘We won’t forget it’: Melburnians celebrate Cup Day COVID-style

Melburnians have emerged en masse and celebrated “the small things” on Cup Day as the city emerges from months of arduous COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.

“It’s disappointing to be watching the race from afar this year, but we’re just lucky to be able to celebrate with friends in person,” Georgina Box said.

“Amazing to be out after lockdown but I think I might need to go back into lockdown after the past few days – they’ve been pretty large and in charge.”

The Port Melbourne resident was one of many Cup Day revellers sprawled across the lawns of Footscray Park, opposite Flemington Racecourse.

Hundreds set up beach tents and marquees on the lush green, while families flocked to barbecue gazebos and playgrounds.

Melburnians gather in Footscray Park opposite Flemington Racecourse to cheer on the horses. Picture: Ian Currie/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

It was a stark contrast from the empty scenes that made headlines every day during the height of Melbourne’s deadly second coronavirus wave.

COVID-19 ended Rebecca Smith’s 10-year run attending the Melbourne Cup, but she was just glad to have a stubby in her hand among a group of friends.

“We won’t forget this one. It’s obviously very different this year – I would normally be there at Flemington,” she said.

“But honestly it’s just so good to be out in the sun with a beer and my friends.”

Groups huddled around phones and radios as the clock struck 3pm and the horses jumped from the starting gates.

One Melburnian was just happy to be out of lockdown and in the sunshine on Cup Day. Picture: Ian Currie/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

Justin Anderson and his family of four even caught a glimpse of the race from across the river as the horses bolted past the city end of the track.

“This is definitely one of the best vantage points we could ask for. It’s as close as we can get without getting inside,” he said.

Laura Cochrane said she had experienced “nothing like the past few months” and embraced the opportunity to be out again.

“It was such a strange experience,” she said.

“And just being here today you definitely sense the trauma other families have been through and the relief to finally get out and be together.”

The Anderson family and Laura Cochrane enjoy a Cup Day picnic. Picture: Ian Currie/NCA NewsWireSource:News Corp Australia

Melbourne emerged from a 112-day lockdown last week after the state recorded consecutive days of no new daily infections.

Melburnians could only leave their home for four essential reasons, could not travel beyond 5km without a valid reason or permit and had to adhere to a 9pm-5am curfew.

And there could be more reasons to smile and cheer with Tuesday marking the state’s fourth consecutive day with no new daily infections and more restrictions set to ease from November 8.

BIG CHANGE TO CUP RACE DAY

The 2020 Melbourne Cup on Tuesday held little resemblance to the ones that came before it in Sydney.

Where punters might have once found themselves stumbling out of pubs, this year they were sat firmly in their seats.

And at the Royal Randwick racecourse, where traditionally about 20,000 well-dressed Sydneysiders would have streamed in, there was only half that.

Punters were seen sticking to their own groups as they made their way through an empty-feeling racetrack on Saturday.

Dressed to the nines, they were confined to their seats, with COVID health orders dictating they not move except for a trip to the bar, bathroom, or a moment at the barrier.

“It’s completely different (this year),” as Australian Turf Club spokesman told NCA NewsWire.

“We deliberately don’t have extra entertainment or celebrity marquees, because we’re not allowed to.”

Groups flocked into Randwick Racecourse in smaller than usual numbers, with groups seen distancing themselves from others. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian GillesSource:News Corp Australia

Punters were offered free masks by the racecourse as they began a Melbourne Cup day quite like no other. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian GillesSource:News Corp Australia

Instead, the main attractions at Randwick this year were health attractions.

“We introduced thermal imaging cameras for taking temperatures, employed extra health staff and handed out a heap of extra face masks for people, and we were encouraging them to wear them,” the spokesman said.

“We’ve done everything we can to make sure Sydney has a great, safe day.”

Racegoers were seen flocking to the stands after the gates opened on Monday morning, with bright coloured frocks noted as the popular look.

One woman was seen in all pink, matching a pastel singlet to a floral skirt, and a hot pink tulle fascinator to finish off her look.

Another group went for a more classic look, opting for black and white, or just black with a small, tailored fascinator.

Male attendees appeared to favour blue-hued suits, many opting for a navy jacket with a pale, patterned shirt.

Bright colours appeared to be the order of the day, with others opting for a simple black and white look. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian GillesSource:News Corp Australia

Photographs taken on the day show footpaths that would ordinarily be packed out littered with only a few people. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Christian GillesSource:News Corp Australia

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