People of all ages packed out another successful Interislander Summer Festival Hawke's Bay Races at Hastings Racecourse yesterday.

The New Year's Day meet was traditionally a family day and there was plenty of entertainment on offer for the youngsters as well as the punters, who came in their droves and made the most of the return of hot, sunny summer weather.

Locals as well as visitors set up under gazebos or sat in the grandstand to witness the action, which despite the small fields due to limited availability of riders, provided plenty of action on the track.

For Waipukurau's Carl and Glenys Petersen, the day out was coupled with supporting friends who owned horses that were racing.


"What better place to be going to the races than the Hastings racecourse on a day like today," said Mrs Petersen.

For Napier's Rachel Anderson, it was the first time she had been to a day at the races at Hastings.

"It's really chilled out, it's great," she said.

Richard Barton, who left the Bay 15 years ago to live in Australia, was back home with his family for Christmas and said the races topped off a day swimming at Ocean Beach the day before.

"We're loving it being back - it's so nice to come home."

Also from out of town was Todd Bawden, from Hamilton, who had ventured south to watch his John Bary-trained horse, Thelma, in action.

"If we win in the fourth you will know about us - we have had a few wins down here over the last few years - it's an awesome place."

Hawke's Bay racing general manager Andrew Castles said the fantastic weather yesterday played a big part in drawing the crowds.

"This day is all about families," he said.

"It's different to a lot of the other days - under 18s are free - it's a pretty cheap day out and it's something families have done together for a long time."

The family vibe meant the crowd was usually well behaved and he expected the day to wrap up by about 6.30 last night.