Carolina Cup Party said to be event of the season
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Resplendent in his customary white three-piece suit hand-made by Taiwanese tailor Henry Chen capped off with a gold Carolina Cup lapel pin and sporting a pair of white bucks; global expedition leader Dr. Tom Mullikin looked every bit the dashing worldwide adventurer as he greeted nearly every guest entering the premier sponsorship party tent at Saturday’s running of the 88th annual Carolina Cup (billed today as the Mullikin Law Carolina Cup) steeplechase race in Camden, S.C.
And why not? it’s Mullikin’s party, his show. He, wife Virginia Ann Mullikin, and their storied law firm have been the Cup’s named sponsors for the previous seven years, and the Mullikin family has been hosting the Cup’s grandest of parties for decades.
Party indeed, lasting three days: Beginning with Friday’s black-tie soiree at the Mullikin home, Saturday’s day at the races, and Palm Sunday’s Revival after the Races with Grammy winning vocalist Jason Crabb.
“What Tom does within his community, the broader state, the nation, and the world is nothing short of phenomenal,” says Col. (Ret.) Steve Vitali, U.S. Marine Corps, who attended the weekend-long celebration for a single night and a full day with wife Rhonda. “And he [Mullikin] does this all the time in so many various ways to showcase our state and the things that are truly great about South Carolina: This, the Carolina Cup, his forthcoming annual SC7 expedition which we’ll all be part of in July, and so much more.”
Col. (Ret.) Bill Connor, U.S. Army, attending Saturday’s party with wife Susan, agrees.
“I am amazed at Tom’s level of outreach and giving to everyone all around him,” says Connor. “The event on Saturday of this year, and frankly every year, is and was exceptional, no detail left unattended, and attended by everyone from general-officers to U.S. Congressmen, state legislators, Medal of Honor recipients, professional athletes, you name it. The Mullikin Law sponsorship tent is, as it is every year, the party of the season.”
Both Vitali and Connor serve as senior officers on the National Security Task Force of the S.C. Floodwater Commission, which Governor Henry McMaster tapped Mullikin to chair back in 2018 as he was stepping down from his two-star command of the S.C. State Guard.
Mullikin says the primary reason for his sponsorship of the Cup is to give back to a community which has given so much to his family over the decades.
“This sponsorship is but one of the ways in which I personally – to include my family – am able to provide for, protect and preserve our unique city, our state, and our internationally recognized steeplechase legacy,” says Mullikin, recently returned from an exploratory mission to mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and the Amazonian jungle. “We support the Carolina Cup in this way because we have been blessed enough to be able to give back.”
Saturday’s annual steeplechase party is an event that for years began on raceday at the Mullikin home near downtown Camden. There bands played, speeches were made, and brunch was served prior to guests boarding buses chartered by Mullikin for the short five-to-10-minute drive from his home to the Springdale Racecourse. For the previous two years, both the Saturday brunch-party and the Sunday revival and music event have been held at the racetrack.
“My parents began hosting a pre-Cup party in 1977,” said Mullikin. “The Cup for us has always been like a huge family reunion, so that’s another reason we do this. My parents actually hosted a party every night for a week prior to raceday. People came from all over the country and around the world to have a wonderful time together, and we have continued and will continue that tradition.”
Tradition indeed: Mullikin and his wife Virginia Ann’s starry guestlists have for years read like a who’s who of Hollywood luminaries, top musical performers, multi-national business leaders, military and political leaders and other dignitaries and celebs.
The Carolina Cup steeplechase race is hosted annually at the historic Springdale Racecourse in Camden, the oldest inland city in South Carolina. Located on the outskirts of the city at 200 Knights Hill Road, the Springdale Racecourse is also home to the National Steeplechase Museum.
The Carolina Cup, one of the nation’s most prestigious races and one of the most important on the national steeplechase circuit, holds the National Steeplechase Association’s attendance record of 71,000 people, including both spectators and participants.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, this two-minute video clip of the Mullikin Law Carolina Cup may be worth 10,000 [please see – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwmpNVKjO4k&ab_channel=PickUptheSixProductions]
– Pictured (L-R) Mike Genova, South Carolina Lt. Governor Pamela Evette, Dr. Mullikin, Bruce Brutschy, Keith Vitali, and Col. Vitali following Friday’s Eve of the Carolina Cup dinner at the Mullikin home.