Where Did I Put My Fascinator?

Australians are following two big races today. The first is the Melbourne Cup, which is the premier horse race of Australia ("the celebration that stops the nation"). In Melbourne this means a day off from work. For everyone else it can mean a very long lunch hour. Restaurants all over Brisbane have been for weeks advertising Melbourne Cup special events, including champagne and a chance to dress in fancy clothes. I just walked by a conference room in another building and saw it was full of people dressed up, eating a catered lunch, and watching the race on a big screen television. The women were even wearing fascinators. This race has far greater meaning for Australians than, say, the Kentucky Derby has for Americans. I heard someone explain this morning that an appreciation for the Melbourne Cup in Australia begins in the pre-school years. In fact, Will's day care was decked out with pictures of horses this morning. 

Interestingly, the other big race today that Australians are following is the U.S. election. It has almost overshadowed the Melbourne Cup in coverage. Several television stations will be devoting most of their broadcasts to the election returns all day tomorrow (starting at around 7 pm Eastern time in the U.S.). I have heard of many plans for parties, including one that will be taking place in the School of Psychology. Most Australians are eager to see Bush go. What's more, Obama is really popular here. I saw a morning news poll of viewers (not a scientific one, mind you) in which 89% of the callers said they would vote for Obama if they had the opportunity.

UPDATE: Well, it turns out that Viewed was this year's Melbourne Cup winner, and he won in a thrilling, photo finish. I am hoping that the other race today won't be as close...