I was recently introduced to the southern tradition of the Kentucky Derby while volunteering for a local fundraiser for the St. Cloud YMCA.
Growing up I often heard my aunts talk about planning their outfits for “Derby Weekend.” I never paid it much attention. I didn’t really know what it was all about since I lived in Ohio at the time and they lived in Louisville, Ken. It seemed to be something they looked forward to when the weather would finally transition into spring. While the tradition was a little unfamiliar, I did know outfits were well thought out and not complete without a nice big hat. And that was certainly the case at the local fundraiser that sported the southern theme this year.
From shades of blues and purples to pinks and reds, hats worn at the fundraising event were what the event was all about. Some hats had bows made of tulle and flowers, others had feathers. One man’s hat was decorated with a bright blue boa. Yes, some people went all out to keep up with the derby theme.
I learned quickly the Kentucky Derby is a fun and colorful tradition. I even tried on a hat. It was purple with a big rose at the center of the brim. I just couldn’t resist.
As I helped check people in and guided them to the variety of activities, I couldn’t help but wonder why the hats and dressing up was so important. So, I did a little research about the event.
This year marks the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby that kicks off today (May 3) and ends Saturday, May 4. It is an event rich with a history of celebration, fashion and unparalleled pageantry. While it’s ultimately a big horse race, it’s so much more than that. It’s an experience.
Much of the attire worn comes from parties held in association with the event. One of the unique characteristics of the Kentucky Derby, and its sister event, the Kentucky Oaks, is these gatherings showcase the finest in spring fashions. Both female and male attendees pull out all the stops when selecting their Kentucky Derby and Oaks apparel. Outfits also reflect where attendees will be spending the day. In the reserved seating areas (grandstand, clubhouse, suites and corporate hospitality areas), ladies typically wear pastel-colored suits, frilly dresses or bold separates that coordinate with their Derby headwear and accessories, according to www.kentuckyderby.com. Men wear suits.
Part tradition, part spectacle, the Kentucky Derby hat parade is much of what makes the annual event great for people-watching. There are no rules or limits when it comes to choosing your Derby hat.
From food and live entertainment to raffles, a horse race and a silent auction, the fundraiser had much to offer. I have to admit even though there was so much going on I will always remember one thing. Those lovely hats.
Many people host their own derby parties whether they live in Kentucky or not. I’ll definitely think about doing so in the future. We’re never too old to dress up.