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Go to the Kentucky Derby
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Go to the Kentucky Derby

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It’s a sacred tradition to the local people who start partying days in advance

But unlike Mardi Gras, the partying here is Southern genteel. kentucky derby The men all wear suits or colorful sport coats (pink lemon, lime, etc), bow ties, and straw hats. It’s refreshing to see men dressed in something other than hoodies, NFL sweatshirts, and baseball caps. People dress up! Every woman had on a tasteful dress and, of course, hats! Most were as wide as the woman’s shoulders and the edges of the hats drooped down as if they were already tired from the partying. Some sprouted leaves of colorful runners that made them look like living plants.

It’s one of the oldest events in the country

The facility, Churchill Downs, is a beautiful, Southern style building. Bright white with tall towers. Unfortunately, there is no crowd control. From the far flung parking lots, along narrow sidewalks, and inside the racetrack, the Kentucky Derby is one big scrum of people. Shoulder to shoulder. But if someone bumped into you, they were polite and they are the friendliest people I’ve ever been crushed together with.

You can eat and drink and bet

I’m convinced the reason there’s an hour between each race is to make people eat and drink and bet more. There’s no entertainment and no where to sit down. The food and drink offerings are limited with the Mint Julep the King of the Kentucky Derby. The juleps are good but strong. Even with all the drinking, I didn’t see any rowdy out-of-control behavior. Maybe all those bow ties on the young guys keep them buttoned-up!

You can experience a third-world country

Since there are few trash containers, 170,000 people throw everything on the ground. Trash, beer cans, paper, half-eaten pulled pork sandwiches, and broken glass increase in depth as the day progresses. Even the tail gating in the parking lots offers an experience of people dancing on top of a carpet of beer cans for as far as you can see.

If you’re lucky, you can get close to the track and see the horses run

In contrast to Hollywood where everything is digitalized special effects, this is the real thing. We had seats on the final turn and could watch as these beautiful, strong horses came around the final turn and exploded into full speed (top speed is around 44 mph), stretching out with the jockeys, dressed in colorful silks of pink, lavender, and sky blue, standing on their backs as the horses thundered toward the finish line. The prize (besides millions of dollars) is a blanket of roses. And, of course the chance to run in the Kentucky Derby.