Several months ago the American Cancer Society here in Key West asked me to volunteer on their gala committee because it was going to be on May 1st...Derby Day! I'm always ready for a celebration on Derby Day, so I agreed. Key Westers know how to party, but nothing compares to Derby Day in the Bluegrass State.
The Derby Festival actually begins several weeks ahead of The Derby, and includes balloon races, deafening fireworks displays, steamboat races and the chow wagon (don't ask..it's just what it sounds like, funnel cakes and all). But on the first Saturday in May, Kentuckians travel back to a gentler time to celebrate the most exciting two minutes in sports in much the same way as they have for 136 years.
The day begins with a Derby Breakfast at the Governor's Mansion and on the grounds of the State Capitol in Frankfort (my hometown).
The breakfast is free--the governor's gift to the citizens--and artisans display their wares while girls dressed in belle gowns stroll the grounds. The race is called the Run for the Roses, but on the capitol grounds it's all about the tulips and our famous floral clock.
While the citizens are enjoying the breakfast at the Capitol, the Governor's Derby Train is on the tracks in downtown Frankfort in front of the Old Capitol waiting to carry the governor and his guests to Louisville to The Derby.
On occasion I've met folks who assume that since I'm from Kentucky then I must be a hillbilly. I sweetly inform them that where I'm from, the horse barns are more elegant than than some homes where they may be from.
This is actually a horse stall that my former associates and I decorated at a horse farm for a fundraiser.
But back to the Derby...Probably the most well known symbol of the The Derby is the Mint Julep.
It is quite tasty--it's a Mojito with Bourbon instead of rum, and the official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby is Woodford Reserve.
The Woodford Reserve Distillery is absolutely beautiful, as are all the distilleries in Kentucky, with the exception of some moonshine operations in the mountains. If you ever find yourself in Kentucky, a distillery tour is a worthwhile adventure.
So, even though I have a Derby Party to attend, I am a little homesick for country ham and biscuits, an icy cold mint julep, and of course, the stars of the day...
Happy Derby Day, Y'all!