What this means to everyone else in the world is incomparable to what it means for we Kentucky residents. I was told from the day I moved on campus that I should not leave my room on Derby day. The city is overwhelmed with so many people that it literally shuts down in some places.
I lived in Louisville for six years and never once did I venture a mere mile down the street to view the festivities. For one, tickets can run a little on the expensive side, even if you choose to slum it with the redneck trash (no offense [actually, yes, offense]) of the infielders, those who pay a small fortune to drink cheap beer out of styrofoam coolers and cheer as the quickest of the drunkards attempt to race across the tops of the port-a-potties.
You think I'm kidding, but I'm not.
And should it rain that year, the infield turns into a gigantic mud wrestling arena, and I certainly will not be venturing into that monstrosity.
So I always said that if I were to go to the Derby, I would be seated in the upper decks, alongside the millionaires and celebrities, clinking martinis and laughing through our noses at the filth below. Of course, I was a poor college student and those dreams of grandeur were about as likely to happen as the previously mentioned nightmares of inelegance. So instead, I watched it on the TV at home. I distinctly remember speaking to my father after the race was over last year as I watched multiple mud-caked, inebriated pedestrians meandering down 4th street.
The worst part of the whole event for me is the playing of the state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." Don't get me wrong, it is an eloquent tune, and the UofL marching band always does it up nice. We sang an amazing arrangement in choir. But it is the horrific, ear splitting, tone deaf shrieking by the liquored up crowd that brings me to tears. I can barely handle being around single individuals who attempt to sing karaoke, let alone thousands. And you can be sure the cameras find the people least likely to be musically inclined and broadcast the nails-on-chalkboard ballad that is my beautiful state song.
This year's Derby was sponsored in large part by Yum! brands, the largest fast food chain conglomerate in the world, stationed right there in Louisville. Yum! must be doing pretty well for itself, as it also recently financed the construction of the new KFC Yum! Center that now serves as venue to major musical acts (Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, and the NKOTBSB, for example,) and the Louisville Cardinals basketball teams. I personally wish they had built it in the shape of a huge bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but alas.
In three minutes, it's all over. The run for the roses is complete, and somewhere in the crowd, an overweight, elderly businessman is jumping up and down with his beautifully festooned wife because his horse just won him millions of dollars. And somewhere else, a Purina factory starts up for this year's fresh batch.
That was wrong, I know. But who wants the horse that came in last place?
While working at the University of Louisville in Housing, it was always a tough push to get the residence halls emptied and cleaned before the Derby, as two of the freshmen halls host the extra National Guardsmen and State Troopers brought in for additional security for the event (and city.) Upon their leaving, it was we who would wade through the filth to assess the damage done to the rooms. There are some unspeakable horrors I experienced and won't terrorize you with, but I saw things. Things, man.
Derby night at the gay clubs is always a hoot, too. Everyone who is anyone shows up at the Connection, and the queens put on a good show for all the
And then, as quickly as it started, Derby day is gone for another year, and Louisville goes back to its old, less important self. I do miss it though. I'm still so very proud that I come from a place known world wide for a mere three minutes of horse racing. And a bucket of chicken.