Local residents prepare for the 149th Kentucky Derby: Watch parties, fundraisers, and travel plans

Published 10:49 am Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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By ELLEN BRABO / For the Washington Daily News

Washington, NC – Get ready to dust off your ornate hat and mix up a refreshing mint julep, as this Saturday marks the 149th renewal of the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” – the Kentucky Derby. Held annually at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the race is 1.25 miles and is the first leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown. Twenty of the world’s fastest horses will compete for a chance to win the coveted garland of roses and a $3 million purse.

More than 600 miles away from Churchill Downs, local businesses have begun advertising Derby watch parties as they seek to offer something new and embrace the most exciting race to watch, explained Peter Ramirez, the bar manager at Pitt Street Brewing Company – On The Pamlico. Alongside Pitt Street, both The Bank and Grub Brothers Eatery are also showing the races.

The inaugural Horses, Hats and Hope Kentucky Derby fundraiser at Fox Hollow Farms will offer an elevated viewing experience for fans of the iconic horse race. Along with dinner and drinks, attendees can participate in Derby-themed games and watch the live race. The event is a benefit for the Shepard Cancer Center in Washington and tickets must be purchased in advance.

“We had talked about doing a fundraiser earlier in the year, but the timing wasn’t right,” shared Pam Shadle, Director of Marketing, Community Outreach and Development at ECU Health Beaufort Hospital. “We have some committee members who attended Derby parties in the past who thought it would be fun to do something different for Beaufort County.”

There will be awards presented for various categories, including best dressed, best styled couple, best hat and more. Those attending the event can participate in a cash prize contest by purchasing a ticket to predict the winning horse ahead of the main race.

While many residents will watch the race unfold on TV, some, like Washington residents Jen Hudson and Robert Griffin, will travel to Louisville to experience the Derby festivities themselves.

“We love Louisville, and the atmosphere of the Derby is amazing,” said Hudson. “The fashion, the hats, the horses and the food. I love the whole experience! Everyone should go at least once.”

For Hudson, the Kentucky Derby is a family tradition.

“I have always watched the Derby,” said Hudson. “As a child with my mom and then with my own kids. So many fun memories. Now I make new ones with my partner and some dear friends who are avid race fans.”

As for who will take home the garland of roses, Griffin is rooting for Forte, the favorite at 3-1. However, Hudson has her eyes on Tapit Trice at 5-1. They will both attend the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby.

The Kentucky Derby is scheduled to start at 6:57 p.m. EST.