Talk Derby to Me

Written by Jacqueline Newell

Hello Louisville!

Hello Louisville!

Maybe it's a southern thing?

Maybe it’s a southern thing?

Having lived in the north my whole life, the Kentucky Derby was not something that I was exposed to early in my life. The first time I really got a sense for the Derby was when I was working at the North Yarmouth Academy annual auction and the theme was Kentucky Derby. Every year the students are assigned outfits to wear. That year, we were all given awful white/see-through baseball pants and racing silks. Mine was bright yellow with red diamonds on the sleeves and, I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure I didn’t give it back. Needless to say, I was never invited to work the auction.

Sigma Kappa date party

Sigma Kappa date party

The culture of the Kentucky Derby has transcended the borders of Kentucky and infiltrated the minds of many during the first weekend in May.  While watching the Bruins games earlier this week, I can’t even recall how many Derby commercials I saw. The NBC Sports Network reminded me that there would be broadcasts all day long leading up to the mile and a quarter, 2 minute race, that is so heavily anticipated. Last year, Jimmy Fallon did a piece about the Derby, too. He traveled down to Louisville and had an interview with the 2013 Derby winner Orb. Check it out here. I, myself, have had some close encounters with the Derby, too. Sophomore year, my chapter of Sigma Kappa held a Kentucky Derby themed date party & a friend had a horse run in the race [#Soldat].

Churchill Downs in February

Churchill Downs in February

Churchill Downs in November

Churchill Downs in November

My year as a LC has been surrounded by Derby references, too. At Western Michigan University, I helped plan a mother-daughter tea and luncheon and the women decided they wanted to wear big hats. The mothers all looked great with their plethora of big hats and most brought extras to share [total mom move]. The women of Western Kentucky University were constantly telling me stories about their experiences at the Derby and how excited they were to go again this year. They were also disappointed to hear I would not be joining them in the infield come May.


 I was able to visit Churchill Downs in November with my friend Grace and we were able to sneak into the museum for free [Thank you lady working at the desk!]. We played some Derby trivia and tried on hats. In the spring semester, I visited the chapter at the University of Louisville and my morning runs would take me on over to Churchill Downs. The snow covered spires and empty parking lot were very different from my November visit. That being said, I did get a chance to sneak through the open gates and get a quick tour of the facilities. But, I was on a timed run so I had to hustle on back!

Now, as everyone probably knows, California Chrome won the race yesterday. Personally, I was pulling for Wicked Strong, the horse serving as a tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing. Another horse I had my eye how was Danza – how could you not cheer for a horse that has the hashtag #HoldMeCloserTonyDanza? [Danza being named for Tony Danza.] Jimmy Fallon had the hashtag #KentuckyDerbyRap trending the other night and combined the efforts of tweeters to change lyrics to be Kentucky Derby themed. Check it out here.

So, until next year, stock up on your mint julep mix, make your hats bigger and play a game of Mad Libs because I’m pretty sure that is how horses get their names.

Side Note: I’ve been told the proper way to pronounce Louisville is to act as if you have a mouth full of marbles so that it comes out sounding more like Loo-vull rather than Looy-ville.

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