May 09, 2011

Bringing a little Kentucky to Texas...Derby style

One of our most favorite times of the year in Kentucky is Derby time. I grew up playing at horse tracks while my dad enjoyed his hobby and both Ricky and I also went to college in Louisville and attended our fair share of Derby events through the years. And also, to me, Derby season signaled the start of spring - cool fresh air, blue skies and flowers blooming everywhere.

All of the Facebook posts about the upcoming Oaks and Derby festivities got me missing being back in KY. We had plans to attend a fundraising event for Ronald McDonald House in Austin but our babysitter fell through so at the last minute I got the idea to bring a little Kentucky to Texas and host a Derby party. I invited all the neighbors, who besides doing a little research online, didn't really know a whole lot about the Derby experience. I just asked everyone to wear hats and I'd take care of the rest.


It turned out to be a blast! I welcomed our guests to "Skees Downs" with a sign on the front door, then served Derby fare like tea sandwiches, hot brown casserole and bourbon balls. The neighbors pitched in to round out the spread with sausage balls, Derby Pie and even PB&J tea sandwiches for the kiddos. And of course, the drink of the day for the adults was Mint Juleps made with Makers Mark.

Before the big race, I had everyone draw a horse out of a hat for $5 a draw. We wrote their name next to their pick and displayed it on the wall at the "Betting Window". We even had a free "Junior Jockeys" version for the kids.

We all watched the race waiting to see who would be the big winner - and split the pot between 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Our neighbor Susan had the luck of the draw and took home $60! Friends Jeff got $20 for 2nd and Todd got his money back with $5 for 3rd. And of course they each received their loot at the "Winner's Circle". Along with the money, the 1st place winner had their photo taken with the "official" gold trophy and gold-encrusted horseshoe sunglasses. They also got to take home a small bud vase of red roses. The "Junior Jockeys" winner got a gold trophy filled with toy money, a red rose light up pen, a small stuffed horse and a rose bouquet made of lollipops. 2nd and 3rd place had a little swag bag as well.


To finish up, we played a few games with the kids in the backyard. We hid a small horse figurine and turned the kids loose to find it, and had a relay race with the classic horse-on-a-stick toys. They had a great time. No kid wound up empty handed - each of them took home a small gold trophy and strand of red beads to commemorate their first Derby party.

It has already been decided that this impromptu event will be back by popular demand next year. I hope to make the Skees Derby party a yearly tradition wherever we are!






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