The Battle of the Bluegrass successfully brought together big names and big donations at the Ice House's makeshift billiards bar.
The Battle of the Bluegrass was fought Thursday night at the Ice House where billiard enthusiasts donated to the charity event in order to be paired up with a variety of sport celebrities and see who would end up the greatest pool player of the Derby Festival.
The tournament was a single elimination doubles game of eight ball with each contestant randomly paired with a sports celebrity. And even though, I'm afraid to say, that I wasn't all too familiar with the different participating celebrities, I can eagerly admit enjoying watching the whole game unfold. The people who had donated to charity to play along in the tournament were a mix of different aged pool sharks and people just wanting to be a part of the event. I could understand why. Not only did it prove interesting to watch these top-notch athletes a little out of their league, their humor and great attitudes also added a wonderful amount to the atmosphere. For the most part, notable athletes like Jerry Smith, Derrick Anderson, Chris Smith, Eric Wood, and Amobi Okoye joked around good-naturedly with their partners and their competition, making the whole affair light hearted and amiable.
The environment that the Ice House provided set the stage nicely. In a half loft, half warehouse design, the two-floor event room added a classy air. Eight pristine tables lined the bottom floor and a nice courtyard stretched outside. Luckily, the weather played nice and so any player or spectator in need of a break had a lovely patio to get one. The coordinators also provided a whole spread of upscale pub cuisine. Deliciously complex grilled cheese on a stick, salmon caper burgers, and gourmet sliders gave everyone something to eat while matching the upscale barroom feel.
Additions to the charity event included really good music by the turntables of DJ K Dogg and an extensive silent auction by American Pastime, which offered a number of signed records, sports memorabilia, and an inexplicable Disney cartoon cel of the movie Bambi.
In my opinion, the real treat of the evening was the host: world champion pool player Jeanette Lee, also known as the Black Widow. Wearing the most striking dress and on impossibly high heels, her personality rang through the room. She played the role of host as everyone should play it. Always moving and overseeing the games, she quickly challenged anyone nearby to a quick game over an open table. She offered tips, tricks, and spankings (her words) to all players, celebrity or civilian. After the first round of play, one of the contestants appeared quite upset at having lost, Jeanette Lee talked to them kindly and then beat them soundly in a rousing game. It was all very professional, effective, and enjoyable to watch.
All around, I hope this event becomes a regular one. Old pool hucksters teamed up with young basketball stars ended up offering a really engaging evening. All in all, I learned that salmon caper burgers are delicious, sports celebrities do not tuck their shirts in as a rule, and that Jeanette Lee is one class act.
Photos: Peter Clark