DEL MAR, Calif. (NNS) -- More than 1,000 USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Sailors, along with their family members and invited guests, celebrated "Ronald Reagan Day" July 23 at the horse races with a special visit to the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
The Sailors and their families received VIP treatment, including free admission, parking and complimentary food and beverages in a private tent located next to the track. In return, crew members kicked off the day's events by raising the colors and singing the national anthem to the applause of thousands of spectators at the track.
"The crowds love seeing the military members come out in uniform and interact with them," said Martha Gilson, the customer service manager for the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club who coordinated the special event. "The Ronald Reagan brings out the largest crowd."
After enjoying food and refreshments, the bugler sounded the familiar "Boots and Saddles" to signal the beginning of the first race, which was specifically dedicated to the Ronald Reagan crew. Sailors lined up around the track, forming a sea of white uniforms, to catch a glimpse of the race and cheer on their favorite horses.
Ronald Reagan Sailors joined the winning horse and jockey in the winner's circle. Capt. Terry B. Kraft, Ronald Reagan's commanding officer, and Michael Reagan, son of the ship's namesake, joined the group for photographs.
"It's always great to be around the Sailors," said Reagan with a smile. "And in a lot of ways this really could be called home since the Reagan family has always had relations with Del Mar. It's nice the Sailors can get a chance to get to know that part of [Ronald Reagan's] history."
Sailors said the event turned out to be relaxing and fun-filled day for all who attended. For many Ronald Reagan Sailors, this was the first time they had been to the horse races.
"It's been a lot of fun," said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Jim McMaster about his first time at the races. "It was a good opportunity to take my sons out and do something different."
This is the second consecutive year the crew of Ronald Reagan has been honored by the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Last year's event also drew a huge crowed of Sailors and their families.
"We had fun last year," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Luis Ramos. "This year is proving to be just as much fun for my family and me."
Ronald Reagan is currently undergoing a planned incremental availability in the carrier's homeport of San Diego following a three-month surge deployment in support of operations in the Western Pacific.
For more news from USS Ronald Reagan, visit www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76/.