Since the event was spearheaded by Danny Perlsweig in the early 1990s, the Florida HBPA has sponsored the annual Backstretch Appreciation Day at Gulfstream Park, typically held right after the Championship Meet. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the celebration in 2020 and 2021, but Pastor Tom LaPointe was determined to do something this summer. The Florida HBPA was only too happy to help. Members of the Backstretch Community and their families are invited to a Summer BBQ on Monday, July 12, at Palm Meadows. THE BBQ AT PALM MEADOWS WAS ORGINALLY SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY, JULY 13.
THE BBQ ORIGINALLY SCHEDULE FOR JULY 6 AT GULFSTREAM PARK HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, JULY 14 DUE TO HURRICANE ELSA.
“This will be the first event on the backstretch since we shut down, and everybody is really excited about it, without a doubt,” Pastor Tom said. “It’s going to be a good time.”
Herb Oster, the Florida HBPA’s special project coordinator, wanted to be sure that the event was something special.
“We’ve all been through a really tough year,” Oster said. “But with all that was going on, the hotwalkers and grooms and exercise riders, they didn’t miss a beat. They worked through the pandemic; they put their horses first, as they always do. We wanted to show them how much we appreciate all they have done, and all they do on a daily basis.”
As always, Pastor Tom has things planned to the minute. “We’ll bring our grills over and have it under the big tent on the frontside,” he said. “We’ll have hamburgers and hot dogs, chicken and fish, potato salad and coleslaw. We’re going to have free raffles for bikes and TVs and microwaves – we’ve had them in storage since before the pandemic.
“We have a bounce house and toys and games for the kids,” he added. “Everybody loves it.”
The Summer BBQ is just part of the Backstretch Recreation Program funded by Florida HBPA and overseen by Pastor Tom. The organization budgets $100,00 for backstretch recreation every year with the goal of improving the quality of life for the workers.
“We do an awful lot, with the food distribution and events and trips and meetings, but we couldn’t do what we do without the Florida HBPA.” Pastor Tom said. “Their support enables us to devote our time to helping the people, rather than spending that time on fundraising. It makes such a difference.”