Rockin’ Reds celebrate the main event

Southern ladies in their Derby finery

Southern ladies in their Derby finery

Southern ladies in their Derby finery

Southern ladies in their Derby finery

Vicki Baker

And they’re off! The Kentucky Derby is America’s oldest thoroughbred horse race. For those of us who couldn’t make it to the track, the Rockin’ Red Ranchers Derby Day Party was the next best thing.

On the first Saturday of each May, thoroughbred horses race in the “most exciting two minutes in sport.” Although the horses are the stars of the show, the Kentucky Derby is as much a party as it is a race. To commemorate the race Mala Bowdouris, Sheliah Ross and Rosemary Simecek earned their spot in the winner’s circle creating the full Kentucky Derby experience with southern hospitality, Derby fare and horse races.

There is not a more moving moment than when the horses make their way from the paddock to the starting gate, and the University of Louisville Marching Band strikes up My Old Kentucky Home. The Rockin’ Reds stood along with the 160,000+ people (TiVO’d) and proudly sang along, although a few missed a beat or two.

Part southern tradition, part spectacle, the hat parade is much of what makes the Derby one of the greatest people-watching events in the world! Wearing a hat is not only tradition it is considered to be good luck! From the fantastic to the sublime, there were no rules or limits as the Rockin’ Reds showed off the latest in fashion and coordinated their hats and fascinators with their dresses, bags and shoes. Vicki Baker rode in style with her hat donned with roses, the traditional flower of the Derby, and the iconic horse.

Mint Juleps, the traditional cocktail for almost a century, are a menu must. Staying on the side of history the ladies toasted their hosts with this refreshing chilled cocktail, a concoction of Woodford Reserve bourbon, water, ice and fresh mint leaves. They then galloped through the party sampling traditional southern fare of fresh fruit skewers, pecan pralines and the pate of the south: pimento cheese on white bread.

During the home stretch of the party the Rockin’ Reds saddled up to the starting gate for the much anticipated horse races. Racing teams were formed with jockey, owner, trainer and designer. With no expense spared, team Bert (Zeitlin), Gayle (Coe), Nancy (Zipes) and Mary (Mullins) was unquestionably declared the best-dressed jockey and horse.

With each jockey donning its team’s racing silks, the field of horses took to the track. A palpable excitement was in the air. The horses bolted from the gate. Soon a clear leader assumed command. With the others fast approaching at a dead heat, team Phyllis (Ayers), Judy (Osborne), Betty (Gardner) and Dorothy (Hogan) won by only a nose. The winners all received long stemmed red roses—the Derby is the Run for the Roses, after all.

The Kentucky Derby is more than a horse race; it’s a long-standing tradition and an excellent reason for a party! So the Rockin’ Red Ranchers broke out the hats and sipped Mint Juleps, and it was a day “off to the races.”