Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My Old Kentucky Home: Hats, Juleps and Glamour in Our New Favorite State

This past weekend marked the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby here in Louisville.  One thing we learned quickly after moving here is that "Derby" involves much, much more than just the two minutes it takes for 20 or so horses to make it around the track during the world's most famous horserace.  On the Friday beforehand, offices close down early or are essentially deserted, local schools take off, and everyone is in full celebration mode, the culmination of an entire week of build up and fun.  The city wide party kicks off with an air show and the largest fireworks display in North America(!) two weeks before Derby weekend and continues up to the big day with charity events, galas, parties and family events-- including races of every kind imaginable (hot air ballon and steamboat races- how fun is that?!).  

Derby day itself, so everyone tells me, is fun but pretty crazy.  The track is packed to capacity with out of towners, sheiks, celebrities and college students overflowing in the infield.  I love to see photos of Churchill Downs visitors in the past personifying Derby's 139 year tradition of glamour. 

Lana Turner with Tony Martin at the Derby in 1941

Prince Rainier of Monaco (right), 1961

Jack Nicholson in 1998

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, 2004

Dennis Hopper, looking dapper in 2002

The Queen of England, 2007

This year, Jane Seymour looking radiant 

This year we did not head to the track for Derby itself, but instead spent the day before Derby at Churchill Downs at Oaks, the famous filies race and secretly the event that many Louisvillians consider the more civilized alternative to the madness of Derby day.  We had the perfect introduction to this wonderfully fun, over the top tradition-- huge hats, mint juleps and all.  

I love Kentucky.



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