I’ll Have Another…
What a great name for a horse and this year’s Derby winner. Based on the name alone, I’m calling a Triple Crown winner in our future.
Another year and another Derby party. I’m counting down to the next one.
There is much about Derby day that holds a lot of memories for me. I look forward to this day almost as much as Christmas and absolutely more than my own birthday.
My parents started the party when we lived in Wisconsin during the early 90’s and carried it over in our move to Minnesota, where it was held for 13 years. Now that they are overseas, my sister and I have taken the helm.
*For those who care to follow, we lived in Wisconsin until ’93, Minnesota ’93-’04, and my parents then moved to Chicago when I graduated highschool. I moved to Milwaukee for college in ’04 and my parents are now living in London. Cheerio Mom & Dad!*
Luckily, we have home video of that very first party. My great aunt Anne, ever the stylish lady, brought her whole collection of hats for the ladies to wear. I miss that. We did have a few this year but next year I may take a page from the Kate Middleton playbook and find a fascinator. When else am I going to be able to wear one?
When we lived in Minnesota, I can’t remember one Derby day where it rained. It was always sunny and glorious. I always woke up early and ate cereal while watching the Breakfast at Churchill Downs coverage. They covered the latest news, odds, and morning workouts of the horses. Isn’t there something mystical about watching a horse on a quiet, empty racetrack with morning fog and the steam coming from their nostrils? It always gave me chills and re-ignited the wish that I was a horse trainer.
My mom would open all the doors and windows to let the sun and breeze in while decorating the house. About that time there was always a knock on the door; a florist with a large bouquet of roses. Every year they are sent by my grandfather to celebrate the Run for the Roses and remind us he was there in spirit…and via phone when he was calling in his bets later in the day! He even had them sent this year and for that, I love him.
Our next task was to fill out the betting programs with all of the horses and their post positions. This was always tediously done the day of the party in case a horse unfortunately scratched. Here’s my sister filling out those programs on Saturday.
In addition to those programs we always had win, place, and show tickets to give to party guests with their bets. It was my job to sit with my Dad and transcribe the horse and bettor on the appropriate ticket. After a few years, we leapt into the 21st century and got a software program to manage it all. It has this resounding trumpet fanfare when you open the program that makes me smile.
At that point we no longer needed those tickets as all the bets were done on the computer. I still remember the first year with the software. An hour before the party my Dad asked me if I was ready to help him with tickets and winked at me. We didn’t HAVE to have them but we still did. It was our thing and for that, I love him. Notice those colored tickets below? I have a thing for tradition.
Food. Glorious and wonderful food.
A big pot of burgoo is a given. A traditional southern stew, this recipe has everything but the kitchen sink.
A Meacham ham; ordered from Kentucky and shaved thin and served with biscuits
*Side note on the ham. I was not asked to endorse or promote this company. We’ve been ordering it for years, it gets rave reviews by all of our guests, and is the best friggin’ ham I’ve ever had. Do yourself a favor and get some.*
Finished off with specialty horse chocolates and pecan bars.
Libations. Glorious and wonderful libations.
Juleps of course! Served in an authentic Derby glass. When my mom first began the party, she decided to start collecting the commemorative glasses sold each year. She’s been collecting two of every year so my sister and I can each have a set and for that, I love her.
I always made the run to the liquor store with my dad the morning of the party. Bourbon and ice were certainties. I loved watching him talk to the clerk about wines and which ones to try and buy this year. It was just our time–the two of us driving back to the house talking about which horses we were going to bet on.
And in keeping with the southern theme, sweet tea vodka lemonades go over well too.
Of course the highlight of the party is the race. It may sound silly but the tension and excitement during the party could rival that underneath the twin spires.
Our house in Minnesota had a walkout basement. The lower level housed a TV and the betting station while the food and another TV were up on the main level. I remember running through the house, at the direction of my Dad, calling for last bets and people running up and down the stairs to act on final hunches and odds.
Once those horses came charging out of the gate people would hoot and holler. As the horses changed positions people cheered them on and jumped up and down. You could hear the noise reverberating from both levels of the house. It felt like our own little slice of Churchill Downs.
The race, the fun, the food, the bourbon, and the tradition…my oh my.
Next year I think I’ll Have Another…