Being from Louisville, the Kentucky Derby is a big deal. As a child, my family had grandstand seats at Churchill Downs on Derby Day. The entire week, really the entire month, was filled with such immense joy. Christmas almost took a second place. My grandparents would visit from Alabama. I would help my mom find the perfect dress. Interesting people from all over the world would be house guests. My dad would get yelled at for planting the mint that would be used in mint juleps in the front yard. All was right with the world.
I have gotten to go to the race as an adult and it stills hold the same magic. No matter where I live, Louisville is home and the Derby is important.
Here are 10 reasons why I celebrate the Kentucky Derby:
- My Old Kentucky Home – I weep when the crowd stands and sings My Old Kentucky Home before the race. My father even played My Old Kentucky Home at our wedding reception. We all sang along!
- Resolutions – I always make a resolution on Derby Day. (Why should we reserve resolutions for the New Year?) The first Saturday in May is a perfect time to think again about life’s necessary tweaks.
- My Uncle Sam – Uncle Sam (my grandmother’s mother’s brother, I think) was a bookie who owned a bar several blocks from Churchill Downs. He was a kind and generous spirit. He always had a joke and a wink for the ladies. He never let you sit at his counter without a little bottle of Coke.
- Hats – Elegance is never wrong.
- Bluegrass – Yes, the grass in Kentucky is blue when you look at it sideways in the morning dew. The pastoral scene of a mother horse with her baby foal running on the bluegrass can be seen throughout Kentucky around Derby time.
- Mint Juleps – Sweet and smooth.
- The Starting Gate – Show up to life. Be present. Have the courage to prepare, hear the call to the post, and race. Don’t be afraid.
- The Homestretch – The homestretch is the portion of the race right before the finish line. Success in the homestretch is about perseverance. Chomp at the bit, lean into your stride, and give it everything you got. Building the strength needed to keep a steady pace and have enough power left to finish the race is a life lesson. The homestretch separates the winner from the rest.
- The Odds – Even the long shot has a chance to win the Kentucky Derby. That is pretty amazing. The horses that enter the Derby are the best three-year-old horses in the world, and on that day any horse can win. The odds declare the profoundly optimistic notion that we can all be winners.