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A Splendid Affair! Coaching Returns to Newport

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An equestrian sport, a tradition and a social pastime, Coaching Weekend was introduced to America in the1880s  by Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt. It’s first venue was Newport and 130 years later this spectacle still plays out gloriously around our island. From Ocean Drive waterfront landscapes (above) to Bellevue Avenue estates to sylvan farms up island (below), Coaching was right at home again this past August weekend.

One of the hallmarks of “Coaching, Newport style,” Which takes place every three years,  is the social aspect of “visiting friends” in their private enclaves. It is all about entertaining and being entertained. An annual event on the calendar is a luncheon at Greenvale Vineyards overlooking the Sakonnet River.  As you  can see from the images below, one feels as though they have stepped back in time…the handsome nineteenth century coaches are in impeccable condition, the elegantly groomed horses are matched pairs and liveried footmen sport gold-braided attire.

Another tradition that is enthusiastically embraced…hats!

After the de riguer afternoon nap, the action moved to “The Ledges”, where the coaches convened for the lighting of the lamps as the champagne corks were popped.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Mele Photography
Photo Credit: Nicholas Mele Photography

The evening ended, appropriately, with a white tie dinner dance at “Miramar,” a Neo- Classical limestone residence overlooking the ocean.

With a nod to the iconic Beverly Hills Hotel, and the hostess’s favorite color, pink…

Remember the famous banana leaf wallpaper, now a fabric?

Which was interspersed amongst the solid pink cloths.

And backing an especially inviting series of seating areas around the dance floor.

As a prelude to dinner being announced, the coaches pulled in on the south lawn to present the final guests.

I’m finishing with a little QUIZ for you, my faithful readers.

The following image so captures Coaching Weekend in Newport. Hollywood good looks, the handsome requisite top hat and tails, the insouciance…But when? Is it from an old photo album in the attic…or did Newport’s answer to Slim Aarons, Nick Mele, artfully “manipulate” his own photo from last week’s event?

Photo Credit: Nicholas Mele Photography


Featured Image Credit, Elbow22.

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Bettie Bearden Pardee

About Bettie Bearden Pardee

Author of Private Newport and Living Newport, garden furniture designer (The Parterre Bench), national lecturer, and entertaining expert. An honoree for the second year on "The Salonniere 100 America's Best Party Hosts", she was also the host and creative producer of "The Presidential Palate: Entertaining at the White House".

7 thoughts on “A Splendid Affair! Coaching Returns to Newport

  1. When my mother (b. 1905) and her siblings were little and living in northern Wisconsin, they used to play “The Social 400.” My mother’s “play name” was Mrs. Vanderbilt, her older sister was Mrs. Astor, and her younger sister was Mrs. McCormick. Although they never could have imagined anything as grand and wonderful as your Coaching Weekend, they frequently created their own events to celebrate what they imagined as the spender of Newport. Thank you for sharing all the photos and stories of what really happens in your magical town!

    1. What a wonderful tale!! Thank you for passing it along, as I love sharing the goins on in Newport. Hope this inspired you!

  2. Beautiful photos, Bettie! I loved the pink as well. As you already know, coaching is huge where we live in the Brandywine Valley. I have some pinterest pictures of ours on the “My Hometown: Brandywine Valley” board if you care to take a peek. George “Frolic” Weymouth was instrumental in the event here, as well as a visionary and tremendous supporter of our land conservation here in Chester County, PA. He is missed by many.

    1. Hello Ann, the horses (matched pairs) are kept at the The Breaker’s stables and at Chateau-sur-Mer. IT really is quite a spectacle and you should consider coming for the next event…three years from now!

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