Accepting the Honor as New Derby Party Host

Events / Travel

My dear friend Phillis, who is a few years older than I am, and her husband, Bill, hosted an elegant Kentucky Derby party. I heard about her gathering for several years.

Finally, I lost my manners and asked if I could be invited.

“Lots of people would like to be invited to our Kentucky Derby party,” she said with a smile. I was not invited that year, and I realized my horrible faux pas for even asking.

However, the next year we did receive an invitation. It came in the mail: A gorgeous watercolor tableau of a horse on a farm. I am a firm believer in formal mailed invitations. They communicate a compliment to the invited.

Perhaps it was my boldness that got us invited. However, my husband plays in a golf tournament that also has a standing date of the first Saturday in May, so I donned a black hat and cocktail dress and went alone.

This was the ninth year Bill and Phyllis threw the party. Horse racing garden flags and wreaths adorned her home. I came in and was given a program. Red roses, horse racing-themed décor and pictures from the first eight years of the party were everywhere. Of course, I was offered a beautiful mint julep in a gorgeous sterling silver cup.

Searcy 's -finest -ladies

After an hour of socializing and hors d’oeuvres, we got down to business. Each guest was given a bidding pallet that featured a horse and our name. Guests who had the winning horse in years past had a special horseshoe earring on their paddle.

Phillis made a giant poster with the morning-line odds. Bill started the bidding on the biggest longshot, and we gradually worked our way toward the favorites.

In order for everyone to be able to participate, a rule was that everyone could only purchase one horse until the top five favorites. Phillis told me that she limited the guest list so everyone could purchase a horse. Bill and Phillis also offered a $5 draw for a Derby starter. I liked having multiple ways to possibly win.

We sung “My Old Kentucky Home” and watched the magnificent Thoroughbreds circle the oval in Louisville. I did not win any money that day, but I hit the jackpot in having fun and learning how to host a genteel Kentucky Derby party.

Phillis decided that her 10th year of hosting was a good year to end on. I promised to be the next generation of the party. But when the time 2014 came, my courage failed me.

One year later, I decided two women were needed to replace Phillis. So now, in 2015, with the help of my good friend and next-door neighbor, we are poised to be the next generation of the “run for the roses” in our town.

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