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    Are you ready for “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports?” You may think that your Spring Break participation will have you prepared for this celebration, but you’re wrong. So wrong. So, I’m here to prepare you for what is the Kentucky Derby if you've never been or to refresh your memory if this isn't your first Derby go-around. You can thank me later. 

    Know the Traditions:

    The Kentucky Derby has a lot of traditions. Whether it be the Garland of Roses, the Twin Spires“My Old Kentucky Home”, or the traditional Mint Julep and Oaks Lily drinks, it's important to know why they exist and are an essential part of the Derby experience. By the time you leave Churchill Downs, you should be humming "All merry, all happy and bright; By'n by hard times comes a knocking at the door, then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!" while sipping on the delicious combination of fresh mint and Early Times.


    What to Wear:

    There are no rules for what to wear and what not to wear, but both men and women generally wear their best dresses, skirts, suits, or slacks. The attire typically depends on where you are sitting, also, because many elites who sit in the reserved areas will wear pastel-colored suits, frilly dresses, or bold separates that coordinate with their Derby headwear and accessories. In the infield, it is much more casual, but this is a great event to showcase your new spring fashions. 

    Derby hats: Many women will have a large, head-turning hats on that accessorizes with their outfit. Derby hats give women a chance to express their fashion sense and personality and they vary in size from small to "How is she keeping that hat on her head?" Don't hold back when choosing a Derby hat! The more unique, the better! 

    Women's AttireWhat comes first? The dress or the hat? Good question! There is no correct answer to this, but finding a hat that matches or accessorizes with your dress is definitely important. If you find a dress first, see if you can personalize your hat to match the pattern or styleof the dress. Otherwise, if you find a wildly unique hat, see if you can find a simple dress. The hat is the fashion statement, after all!

    Men's Attire: Don't be shy, men! This is a chance for you to really stand out. Have a bright pink suit you've been dying to wear but have nowhere to wear to? Derby is the place. Pick light, pastel or Spring-friendly colors, accessorize with a bow or tie, and rock that look! 

    Vineyard Vines is the official style of The Kentucky Derby and can also be purchased in the gift shop. 

    Where to Go:

    The infield: Consists of the third turn and the family-like area at the first turn.

    The Third Turn "Scene": This is where the college-aged Derby attendees gather to drink, eat, and listen to live music. This is where your Spring Break drinking and partying practice will come in handy. A great place to engage with friends and party-like atmosphere, the third turn scene is located in the infield, it's a great place "for the young and the young at heart [to] indulge in all things fun, free wheeling, and sometimes, a little frisky. In short, the photos that transpire from the third turn party are not typically ones you want to share on Facebook for your grandma to see.

    The First Turn "Scene": A picnic setting where the families typically sit and is considered "G-rated." This isn't where you want to yell inappropriate things and smash beer cans against your head. Leave that at the third turn.

    “Millionaire’s Row”This is where the wealthiest enjoy the race from their box seats. Unless you get lost, you won’t be sitting here on a college student’s income. 

    If you can't make it to Churchill Downs, don't worry; there are a list of television channels that will be broadcasting the event on Friday and Saturday.

    What to Do:

    Wagering: When making your wager, consider the expert picks before you attend. This could prove to be extremely helpful (and beneficial $$$) when making a smart decision on picking a horse.

    Derby Contenders: Even if know absolutely nothing about racing, you’ve got to be a little educated before you arrive. Don’t be that girl that bets on the horse because of the “pretty name” or the guy that thinks “War Story” is bad ass, therefore he’ll bet his life savings on him to win it all. Check out the 32 contenders, their prep race history, their past performances, and their trainer & owners here.

    Drinking: I had to add this here. Drink lots of Mint Julep's (but don't get too inebriated) and socialize with friends. Many school's are out for the summer, so this is a great time to unwind and enjoy the tradition!

    What to Know: 

    Check out the list of prohibited items, permitted items, and admission times and locations here.

    Purchasing tickets for the infield can be down at the admission gate upon arriving. There are an unlimited number of tickets, so there is no need to arrive too early and you can come and go as you please. You can check out ticket options here.


    Nearly all of Louisville will be attending and many out-of-towners, too, so be prepared for congestion around the highways, Crittenden Drive, and Third Street. 

    There is on-site parking, but it is sold in advance and may not be available. However, there is bus and taxi transportation for Kentucky Derby patrons. This includes a bus depot, which can be located outside of Gate 1 at Churchill Downs and goes to and from lots at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, the Kentucky Exposition Center and shuttle locations in downtown Louisville. This also includes a taxi depot, which is located adjacent to the Wagner's Pharmacy building at 4th and Central, will be available for pick-up and drop-off of patrons at peak times on Derby and Oaks Days. The new location is an approximate four-to-five minute walk for patrons exiting from Gates 1 and 17, but only seconds from the infield entrance at Gate 3.

    Also, many residential homes will let you park in their yard or driveway for a small fee. This can be helpful if you don’t want to walk far or use a taxi or bus.

    Have fun, drink lots, wager on horse or two, win some money, and enjoy the tradition that we are lucky enough to call ours! 

    Photos courtesy of The Kentucky Derby website.


    Alexis Messmer's picture

    About Alexis Messmer

    2015 University of Louisville graduate. All things social media, marketing, writing, sneakers, photography, music, and a whole lot of coffee.

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