It’s the first Saturday in May and my hometown is celebrating as it has done for 145 years – with the running of the Kentucky Derby. There is nothing like being under the twin spires of Churchill Downs on this day. The pageantry – big hats, everyone dressed beautifully and boldly in bright spring colors, the trumpet playing the Call to Post, the mint juleps and the strong, sleek Thoroughbreds – it is a day filled with fanfare and tradition.
The celebration starts several weeks before as the contenders arrive at Churchill Downs, the names of these beautiful horses begin to circulate (names such as, Sunday Silence, Silver Charm, Barbaro, American Pharoah) as all wonder who will be the coveted winner of this year’s big race. There is an entire Derby Festival and a Derby poster that sets the tone for the images you will see blanketing the city for the season (one such poster graced my childhood bedroom wall). All of this leads up to the big day, Louisville unites with pride behind their landmark event. In a city where bourbon flows as freely as the Ohio River it sits on, this is a party of epic proportions. The excitement builds until you awake on Derby Day with a palpable energy in the air – the entire town is abuzz.
I felt especially blessed growing up in Louisville with a May birthday – it was as if the city threw a big party for me each year. Once Derby festivities started, we knew the fun had begun, the school year was coming to a close and warmer, sunnier days were upon us.
And so, though I’ve not lived in Louisville for over 20 years, it holds a special place in my heart – especially on Derby Day. I will watch it on television and swell with pride as they feature the landscape of rolling bluegrass fields with horses grazing – the backdrop of my childhood. I will stand and listen as My Old Kentucky Home plays, tears streaming down my face.