Ben’s wish list included the hope of seeing a variety of animals and he’s been very fortunate to see many recently (the zoo, Sharkarosa, etc.) However, I don’t know if any were as beautiful as the race horses we saw at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie. They invited us to come out and see the race horses (and enjoy a delicious buffet!) and it was such a fun day!!
We pulled up front and Stacey met us and lead us inside, up the elevator and into this gorgeous dining area overlooking the track. Just the view was worth visiting there! We had tables reserved right up against the window (as well as a tv so Ben could see close up everything that was happening.) It even had a sign that said “Ben’s Wish” and when we looked into the program Stacey showed us race four – it was named Ben’s Wish!! And we were going to go down to the track to get a photo of that race with the winner!
The only hiccup being Ben’s little sister thought this meant she could RIDE in the race, and her three year old self was not amused when I told her she couldn’t actually ride the “pony” she picked.
After reminding the kids that they must eat something healthy before hitting the dessert, cake, and ice cream bars we let them loose on the buffet. It was delicious – C loved the enchiladas, B loved the salmon, Kit and I both thought the build your own pasta bar was fantastic. (We went back for seconds – so, so good.) There was Blue Bell ice cream with toppings, a huge variety of cakes and pies, cookies, strawberries, trifle, cobblers, chocolate sauce… oh, and a really great salad bar but the dessert kept distracting me.
Then of course there were the horses! We came downstairs for the third race and watched it from the railing and it was breathtaking, seeing those powerful horses racing past. Even just walking down the path where the horses are lead towards the railing – all of it was stunning. The kids were enthralled. (Though admittedly they picked which one they wanted to win based on which they thought was prettiest, but we weren’t making any bets so that’s okay.) The winning horse came in and was RIGHT THERE, we could reach out and touch it, but they remembered I told them NO reaching towards the horses and they behaved. We headed back inside for some water then came out for race four, and just before it started Stacey introduced us to Scott, the president of the park. He asked the kids if they would be interested in watching the next race (Ben’s Wish) from INSIDE the track. Um, yes??!!! So off we walked on the track, crossed over and got inside the track (and let the kids play inside the starting gate, which I told them was not a bad idea to have at home to contain them.) They hopped out, the horses were brought in and we stood feet away as they launched out of the gate.
I told Ben that just for a second he should close his eyes and remember the sound of the horses as they raced past. It was something I will never forget, and I hope he always remembers. While many of these experiences are focused on the visual, we want Ben to use ALL of his senses to collect these memories. When he remembers these races someday I want him to “hear” the sound of those beautiful animals and think of the smell (ha!) and the touch and all of the ways he was able to experience it – beyond the visual.
Once they’re off they pull the gate out of the way and we needed to cross back outside of the track before they came around. It was so neat, and Ben had the best smile on his face.
We saw them cross the finish line and then got a photo with the winner and the kids were able to touch the winner! (Me, too, I wasn’t about to miss that chance.) Then we went back inside to enjoy the buffet again and eat way too much ice cream. J, our five year old, couldn’t decide if he wanted a sundae or cone – they gave him both. He wisely admitted later that he probably should not have eaten three servings of ice cream.
Oh, and I was too slow and missed a piece of pecan pie at the dessert bar, but when I got back to our table Stacey was standing there with the chef and a beautifully plated piece of pecan pie he had brought out for me. It was so, so kind (and so YUMMY!)
When we were back inside for the following races I had Ben do the same thing – I told him to close his eyes just for as second as the horses were getting close to the finish and listen, to the cheering crowd and laughs and excitement and to remember this moment and then open his eyes and watch the horses dash across the finish line. Judging by the grin on his face I think it’s cemented in his memory as a magical moment.
To everyone who made this possible and especially Stacey for reaching out to us and coordinating it – thank you.