May 2, 2012

My Old Kentucky Home

The mint julep. Bourbon, sugar, and mint leaves.
And, the nastiest-tasting official drink around.
I'm not big into gambling. Or bourbon. Or hats.

But I embrace all of the above for one Saturday in May. Namely, the Kentucky Derby.

Luckily for me, my husband has family in Kentucky - awesome, fun-loving, heavy-drinking family who last year were kind enough to invite us to stay at their place and then drive us to the Derby and celebrate with them. Score.

The Derby itself is one of those things you should try one day, just to say you've done it - whether you pay several hundred dollars per person for the good seats, several thousand dollars for the really good seats, or a mere 40 bucks for general admission, which gets you all the space you'd like on the inner track.

Among the many sights of
the Kentucky Derby.
Not weird ... at all.
In truth, the inner track doesn't quite have the glitz and glam of the larger stadium.

You won't, for instance, have a reserved seat per se, though you can bring your own lawn chair.

You can't actually see the track. (That's what the big screens on either end of the stadium are for nowadays.)

Annnd, there's no shelter to speak of to protect you from the elements. So bring an umbrella ... or if you're really classy, a tarp.

But, really, where else on the planet can you drink freshly made mint juleps with the masses, chow down on giant turkey legs while standing around in a dress and fancy hat, and spend the day hoping to make money off of animals with funky-sounding names?

Besides, you've got to admit that it isn't all that often you come across a half-man, half-horse jumping rope with the local kids. These are the trenches, people, where you will experience the real deal.

And I swear to you it's all worth it for those two short minutes of pure excitement during the actual Derby race.

Drinking bourbon,
and losing money.
A mere mint julep or two in, and you won't be able to help yourself from freaking out alongside the thousands and thousands of people around you, frenzied with adrenaline, fist-pumping and yelling at full volume from the stands, cheering on their horses to the finish line. It's all about the atmosphere. There's no way to recreate it. At the very least, from a purely anthropological perspective, it's certainly worth the experience.

So I learned last year, when we braved the rain in our dresses and hats, our lawn chairs, and, oh yes, our cash money. We placed bets on races all day long, before the official Derby kicked off. My mother-in-law even won some money - on a horse named A Good Time Was Had By All. 

All in all, a fine time in my book.
Cousin Emily with the requisite mint julep and turkey leg.

Alas, I am not headed to Kentucky this year. But I still plan to commemorate the day with a gathering at my place - complete with hats, a few friendly wagers, and some strong drinks. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I refuse to make mint juleps. They may get you drunk, but they are far from tasty.

So, seeing as the 138th Kentucky Derby will fall on Cinco de Mayo, we'll be downing margaritas instead. Ole!

A good time, I am sure, will still be had by all.

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