May 7th is the date for the 142nd running of The Kentucky Derby. This most famous of horse races has been dubbed "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports." and "the Run for the Roses."
The Kentucky Derby is a one and a quarter miles (2 km) race for 3-year-old thoroughbreds. The race and the after parties are the culmination of a two-week festival in Louisville, Kentucky which rivals Mardi Gras in scale.
I live in horse country. Just fifteen minutes east of my house, I can find myself surrounded by acres of horse farms. Farms with majestic manor homes and spa-like stables, Farms with gated entries and pasture after pasture of bluegrass, which for the record is green. Drive fifteen minutes west and I'm in the center of the city where there are parades, contests and all manner of hoopla collectively called The Kentucky Derby Festival.
I'm not overly crazy about horses, but I live here and I appreciate the industry and benefits to the community from the tourism. If you've never experienced a Derby Festival, it's hard to imagine the overall party atmosphere of the two week celebration.
Let's walk through the 2016 Kentucky Derby Festival with a dialog of captioned photos in the medium of jewelry... my passion.
Two sterling silver charms to get us oriented. On the U.S. map, Kentucky is located under the 2nd "T" in States. Louisville, Kentucky is on edge of the second map, above the first "R" in Frankfort.
Kentucky is nicknamed the Bluegrass State. Bluegrass being the fodder that is so popular on those horse farms. Horses are big business in Kentucky which is why that horse head is the image on the charm. And, Frankfort, a very small town, is the state capitol. The largest city in the state is Louisville and that's where you'll find Churchill Downs, the race track famous for it's twin spires architecture and for being the home of the Kentucky Derby.
A Churchill Downs charm
Lunch at the Ritz 4" earrings.
The Kentucky Derby is run on the first Saturday in May, regardless of weather. And for the two weeks preceding the race, there are activities galore in the city. Months before the activities begin, there is the unveiling of the official Kentucky Derby poster. This year's poster, like all the previous posters is horse-centric. A map of the state is in the background and the horse's wings are a reference to Pegasus.
With a history of professional picture framing, I have nothing negative to say about the posters. I've framed 30 years worth of designs. But, there's only so much room to hang another poster. I think there should be a piece of jewelry produced annually to commemorate the event. That's something I would collect.
Some of the best equine jewelry was produced in the early to mid-20th century and made of Bakelite. These are some of my favorites.
The Derby Festival season kicks off with Thunder over Louisville, one of the largest fireworks shows in the world. The fireworks are represent here by a brooch and earrings set by Trifari, followed by a Warner brooch.
A brooch and earrings set by Trifari, followed by a Warner brooch.
People races take place too. Three races to train for. There's a marathon, a mini-marathon and the Run for the Rosé which involves wait-staff balancing trays with full wine glasses through a course to the finish line.
The Great Balloon Glow and the Great Balloon Race are a bit more relaxing. Hundreds of hot air balloons light up the sky. The Glow is a nighttime event. Pilots light their burners resulting in brilliant splashes of color against the black night sky. The Great Balloon Race is a morning event and clusters of balloons can be seen floating through the air from everywhere in the city. Both events are really spectacular. Here's a Monet hot air balloon brooch. Not as colorful as the real thing, but much more versatile.
Louisville, Kentucky is situated on the Ohio River which lends itself to another race venue – The Great Steamboat Race. Steamboats from up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers converge at the Port in Louisville for this river race. Below is a charm showing The Belle of Louisville. The Belle is the hometown favorite. Sadly, she rarely wins the race.
Belle of Louisville Charm
The Pegasus Parade is a traditional parade with floats and marching bands. It's a popular family event during the festival. The 2016 Grand Marshall will be Jordan Smith, Season 9 winner of the TV competition The Voice. I wonder if he'll have his own baton? Shown below is a brooch by Trifari. The first of two Pegasus pins is unsigned; the second is by Swarovski.
Food and drink play an important role in Derby festivities. The Mint Julep is a concoction of bourbon (a whiskey produced in Kentucky), crushed ice and fresh mint. The drink was traditionally served in a silver julep cup but now mostly served in classic highball glasses. These photos of mint juleps are the real thing; the cocktail glass brooch is my interpretation.
Photo credits: Honestly Yum; Pinterest.
Kern's Bakery, a local company, serves up Derby Pies. They are very tasty and because they travel well, I always try to take one when I go out of town to visit friends.
Rivaling the Great Balloon Race, mentioned above, for color are the myriad of hats worn by both men and women on Derby Day. The hats are big, bright, feathered, flocked and otherwise adorned to stand out.
The Ciner sun bonnet, below, is probably the closest example I have of the real thing. But to be more realistic, the brim should be about twice as wide. The mesh porkpie is doable - if the wearer added more adornments. The Krementz brooch hat is simply too dainty for Derby. That one is better saved for Easter Sunday.
We've been to the parade, watched the steamboat race, partied through the fireworks display and overeaten for two weeks. It's time for the race! The crowd sings My Old Kentucky Home, a folk song standard and "They're Off!"
The horses leave the starting gate and they move like the wind. Secretariat, in 1973, set the record for the fastest time of a Kentucky Derby finishing the mile and a half in 1:59:40. He's one of only two horses, Monarchos in 2001 being the other, to finish in less than two minutes.
Napier brooch with chain mane to represent the speed of these animals.
A pair of cuff links to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Kentucky Derby with image of the first winner, Aristides.
A pair of vintage horse's bridle pins.
A Coro Duette Brooch from the 1940s.
An equestrian brooch in silver with leather trim and an antique watch chain and fob.
A gold charm and a shell fob.
Two pairs of cuff links; reverse carved intaglio and sterling silver from Mexico.
Wood and Lucite vintage pin.
This Lang silver pin features a jockey aboard the horse.
And just like that, "the most exciting two minutes in sports" is over. The winning horse is covered with a blanket of red roses and the winning bettors collect their money. Not to worry, if you missed something, it will happen again next year!
World of Eccentricity & Charm
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