Diary from the Kentucky Derby
Published: Sunday, May 2, 2010
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 01:06
Kentucky is known for more than basketball and cheap tobacco.
The Kentucky Derby, now in its 136th year, is the oldest continuous sporting event in the U.S. It is as seasoned in years as it is in tradition.
Bonnets, derby pies and mint juleps are just some of the common traditions seen at the derby.
But it's the things NBC doesn't televise that make the Kentucky Derby so great, for the college kid at least.
The derby, to college kids in Louisville, is like New Years meets the Fourth of July meets the OSU-Michigan game.
Derby eve is almost as big as derby day itself.
Fourth Street (the Louisville equivalent of High Street) was closed off all evening, the cheapest draught beers were $8, and the cover charges to get into any of the bars lining the streets were as much as $40.
Oh, and there was a little stage in the middle of the street, where 3 Doors Down played a full set list for all the bar-goers to hear.
As midnight approaches on derby-day, the bars shut off their music and all of Fourth Street counts down in blissful drunken harmony to the day the whole state seems to revolve around.
For the horses, the derby is a sprint — but for fans it's quite the marathon.
The 4th Street bars are open until 8 a.m., and fans are stuck deciding between continuing on into the late night derby eve festivities, or making sure they sleep just enough to be able to tailgate in a few hours.
Often times for college co-eds, derby eve wins out.
Then comes the actual day of the derby, when fans battle the imminent hangovers to fire up the grills, sip on screwdrivers, and start tailgating at 9 a.m., five hours after they had left the bar the night before.
After seven hours of burgers, brats, beer and corn-hole, it's race time.
But the lowly college kids don't get to sit in the stands next to Denzel or Madonna. They pay $40 to wade through the mud-ridden swampland that is the infield.
At first glance, the infield is so big it's hard to tell there is a horse track bordering it. Where there aren't vendors, betting windows and porta-johns, there's mud — lots and lots of mud.
After placing their bets, fans hit the infield.
Meandering around the infield, there was actually a lot to do. Mostly though, it consisted of the most intoxicated 5 percent of the crowd putting on a show for the rest of the fans.
When these dedicated fans weren't mud-wrestling, they were being carried out in handcuffs or stretchers.
Then finally, at 6:30 p.m. it was time for the race. Drinking, eating and avoiding sleep for the last 24 hours, all for this two-minute long race.
From the infield, about a 30-yard stretch of the race can be seen, at best. The race was shown on a giant scoreboard though, and when it started, the entire infield roared. Fans watched as Super Saver moved toward the front, and by the time they got to the end of turn-two, Super Saver ran by, leading the pack.
Super Saver won the race, the bed of roses and the prize money.
Only at the Kentucky Derby can one spend $200 and 48 hours celebrating, see horses for all of five seconds, and still have it be one of the highlights of the year.