It’s Derby Weekend! Vote for Your Favorite Derby Day!

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Kentucky Derby. I’m not a betting kind of woman, or a proponent of mistreating animals in any way, but something about all that glorious horseflesh (especially in high-definition) makes my heart race.

My brother (who died of AIDS in 1985) used to have a fun Kentucky Derby party. Back then, TVs were really tiny, the picture was fuzzy…or at least his was. I remember he used to make corn bread muffins in those little corn cob shaped cast iron pans. Yum. (You can try it with my cheesy cowgirl cornbread recipe!)

These days, we get invited to Derby parties but rarely go. It somehow seems we always have some other obligation that is oblivious to the Derby—and then we have to show up unfashionably late because, hey…it’s the best three minutes in sports! Three minutes, that’s all I ask. I am almost always on time the whole rest of the year.

Maybe next year we should have a party. Except, I really like to focus on the build-up. There are always the crazy, emotional stories (it’s like the Olympics, only condensed!). Our tradition is to run out an hour or two before the preshow starts and pick some fresh baby apple mint to make fresh mint iced tea. It’s a poor substitute for a mint julep, but hey, no alcohol allowed in our house. Then we all snuggle up on the couch and watch the horses (picking our favorites) and feel the tension and watch the commercials, and we sing along to “My Old Kentucky Home” and turn up the TV really loud to hear the thundering horses hooves and…Wow! It’s over. Interestingly, the youngest kids always seem to pick the winning horses!

If we had a party, I’d have to be talking to people and refilling glasses and stopping the dog from jumping up on people and stealing food.

Last summer I went to Kentucky to interview farmers for my book, Organic Manifesto. I had to stop at Churchill Downs to visit, but a huge thunderstorm prevented me from taking the tour. I got just enough of a taste to know that one day I am going to have to come back for the Derby itself. And yes, I am going to buy a great big, fantabulous hat.

It’s still probably better on TV, but some things just have to be done at least once in real life. The Derby is on my list.

But what do you think? Vote!

[poll id=”8″]

If you have a Derby party yourself, or go to one, I’d love to live vicariously through you and hear what your favorite things on the menu are. (Not sure what to make? Check out the Kentucky Derby Recipes on

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5 Responses to It’s Derby Weekend! Vote for Your Favorite Derby Day!

  1. dblinder April 30, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    My parents love watching the Derby. No matter how busy we were on weekends, pre-Derby coverage was on the radio or TV as we went about our day. For those three minutes of racing, though, we all dropped what we were doing to circle around the screen and watch together.

  2. Morgan F April 30, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    I’m amazed and happy that the derby hasn’t been moved to pay-per-view yet. Don’t some of the big boxing matches (which cost $70 to watch) last only a round or two? I’ll watch any free drama:). I’ve never had a mint julep, but would love to speak with a southern drawl while ordering one at the Derby!

  3. Debby Allbritton April 30, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    4-30-10 7:40am pdt
    Dear maria,
    I,too, love the magnificent horses-the pagentry,parties great fun. But as a teen knew mngr hollywood park,went to early morning workouts saw horses 2 yrs old die horribly from heart attacks-during workouts.Asked how many horses die heart attacks a mo during racing season-don vorhees said 18-20. That was my last trip to races,wld like to see Derby for fun hats& parties, but treatment of racehorses…cruel,deb

  4. Donna E April 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    Oh Maria,
    I wait longingly for that day in May when the long legged beauties run for the roses!Dan Fogulbergs song can always stop me in my tracks to remeber the sites & sounds of Derby day,I turn up the tv too! I’m not really a fan of racing on the everyday and smaller backsides I’ve been on,but the big tracks & trainers who do it right I enjoy.I’d love to witness the Derby in real-life to add the smells and perminently imprint that day in my brain.Now that I have 2 sets of twins,we do have our own little party,kid-favoring and this year we are decorating out bonnets! Enjoy the day!

  5. Susan May 1, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    I am so with you with you on this. I love the Derby. I always am aware when it is the first Saturday in May and that I have to be in front of the TV for a time in the afternoon -yes- preferably with the sound cranked for the calling of the race. It amazes me that other people are completely oblivious to this event, and do not catch the thrill of it!

    I don’t know what to think about the treatment of the horses…figured that they are well taken care of and like to run…had never heard of the heart attack thing.

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