Some people count down the days until Christmas with giddy excitement and anticipation, but as I described in another blog post, I am not one of those people. Perhaps, because my Christmas arrives on the first Saturday in May, in the form of the Kentucky Derby. The North Pole has nothing on Churchill Downs, and in Louisville, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Growing up in Louisville, I learned early on that we actually have five seasons-Winter, Spring, Derby, Summer, and Fall, with Derby being my favorite season by far. I only have been out-of-town twice for the Derby, and I hope to never miss another one. The first time I missed it was when I was in Minnesota attending the funerals of both of my grandfathers who died within days of one another. That year, the lyric, “weep no more, my lady”, could not have been more poignant. The second time I missed Derby, I was in Daytona, Florida for a college sponsored trip, and I watched the race on television with one of my college roommates. As I watched the coverage unfold, I dissolved into tears and felt terribly homesick for my old Kentucky home. I made a vow to never be away from Louisville for the Derby again, if at all humanly possible, and I have kept my word to date.
It was during those two absences that I realized that the whole world does not stop on the first Saturday in May to take in the majesty of what is truly the most spectacular two minutes in sports, but they should. There is something truly magical about Louisville at Derby time, and I wish that everyone could experience it for themselves, at least once in their lifetime. The trees and flowers are in bloom, the bluegrass is lush, and there is something so indescribably peaceful and beautiful about watching the sun rise over the famed Twin Spires at Churchill Downs. Southern hospitality is on display in all of its glory, and we roll out the red carpet for celebrities and visitors alike. Men wearing seersucker suits and women donning big, gorgeous hats sip mint juleps and place bets on the races, and for one day, they leave behind their normal routines and roles for a day at the track. Louisville is in the spotlight, and we are shining brightly.
For me, the most magical moment is when “My Old Kentucky Home” is played shortly before the Run for the Roses. The sound of over 155,000 people singing our beloved Commonwealth’s song together always makes me shed bittersweet tears of pride, joy, and nostalgia. It is one of those moments that I savor, and it makes me feel so immensely proud to be a Kentucky girl. Nothing is perfect, but at that moment on that day at that time in that place, all is right in the world, even if for just for two glorious minutes.
Whether or not you watch the Kentucky Derby trackside or from afar, I hope that you take the time to watch it, as my words cannot do it justice. If you do watch it, when you hear the opening notes of “My Old Kentucky Home”, think of a quirky southern girl with a smile on her face, tears in her eyes, and a mint julep in her hand singing along with the rest of the crowd at Churchill Downs and feeling overwhelming happy, for she will be “home”.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story