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    Bit to Do

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    If Derby was a concert, the infield would be the mosh pit: equal parts adrenaline, alcohol and violent celebration. The pressed seersucker suite types in Millionaire’s Row look down (perhaps literally and figuratively) on the teeming, rowdy, rainbow melting pot at the center of Derby, a crush of Forever 21 sundresses and synthetic straw hats.
    Honestly, the infield is F.U.N. in all capitals, FUN if you’re down for a tipsy chaotic romp with the weirdos. The infield is the beating, bleeding heart of Derby: pulsing music, pumping fists. It’s the cheapest way to attend the big race so a good chunk of the crowd is young and broke, or at least adventurous and looking to party down infield-style.
    Infield rookies and infield old-timers alike, heed these Infield survival tips, and remember them in your time of great drunkenness and confusion:

    1. Manage Your Infield Experience Expectations.

    The sooner you accept that the infield is about the party rather than any race….the sooner you’ll begin to enjoy yourself.

    2. Dress to Get Down and Derby


    Dressing correctly for the infield requires flexibility. Choose your outfit according to these three factors:
    1. There will be extreme weather of some kind, blistering heat or freezing rain. There is no in between.
    2. It’s Derby, so, you know, try not to look like a total scrub. It’s the only sporting event in the world more concerned with the outfits on onlookers than the safety of the athletes.
    3. It’s also, however, the infield, so don’t wear anything you can’t feasibly allow to come in contact with vomit.

    3. Don’t Be Cheap

    The best way to smuggle alcohol into the infield is in your belly. You heard it here. Just bring cash, pregame, and buy the drinks.
    Every year Churchill tightens regulations on what exactly can be allowed into the infield because, hey, we’ll admit it: in Louisville, we are super good at sneaking booze around, and we keep coming up with ingenious ways to do it. I’ve heard tales of infield pros who hide liquor bottles in loose ceiling tiles in the public men’s room days before the race. Fruit is sometimes injected with massive amounts of booze and subsequently devoured like deconstructed (reconstructed?) sangria.
    But honestly, smuggling booze into the infield at Derby is kind of like finding that one free street parking space close to Churchill…after driving around for an hour refusing to pay for a parking space.  Sometimes, it’s just worth it to pony up the cash and pregame hard, as long as you’ve got a solid DD to ferry you about town.  


    4. Don’t Lose Your Friends

    Look, often cell reception isn’t great during Derby. The Infield is big and confusing and labyrinthine so don’t lose your friends:  you might not be able to rely on your smartphones to reconnect you for a long time, and it can take hours of wandering around the infield to run into your posse again. Don’t be the asshole screaming directions into your phone over everyone else’s conversation. Stay with your group and keep an eye on your drunk friends.

    5. Don’t Drink and Deride

    The scourge of Derby: over-drunk aggressive assholes hassling other people and/or the police.  Let’s be nice to each other no matter how drunk we get, okay?

    6. Don’t Do Drugs and Derby

    So let’s have a serious moment here, potential infield tripper. I know Vice made it look so cool. I can artistically understand your pastel-patterned Hunter S. Thompson fever dream of a DAY AT THE DOWNS hyped up on more than bourbon. But however you feel about your illegal substance of choice you must admit this: it’s unpredictable. And let me assure you, the infield at Derby is WELL policed.  
    You’re going to be in a teeming pit of people from all 50 states, people in varying shades of wasted: do you really want to get paranoid in that situation? Do you want to get sick to your stomach surrounded by tinge of manure in the air? Do you want to freak out miles away from your car and lose your friends? Just don’t.

    7. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.

    Stay hydrated and slathered in sunscreen to mitigate your inevitable post-Derby hangover.  Sunday will be ugly for you, but it will be worth it.

    8. Don’t Lose Your Shirt

    Losing your shirt on the ponies is an infield mistake that can haunt you until your next paycheck, at least. Losing your shirt for some plastered tourists who’ve mistaken the Infield at Derby for Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras is a mistake that can be forever immortalized on the worldwide web. Keep in mind everyone around you has an HD camera on their phone.

    9. Don’t Trust Anyone in Costume

    People dress up for Derby, even for the infield, and some people come in full costume as jockeys or Derby horses or rose garlands. These costumed people are the ones you should steer clear of as the day rolls on and the Juleps flow. That person dressed in a giant Jack Daniels bottle costume has been partying down so hard for so long today. The most insane hats are always on the craziest girls. Look, but don’t touch, marvel at the strangeness.

    10. Accept the Post-Race Madness

    After the big race is over, make peace with your next few hours as infield lemming careening towards the cliff of your Derby after-party, wherever that may be. Accept what you cannot change: that it will take you hours to get home.
    As you try to leave the Infield, you are likely cramming down a nightmarish death tunnel under the track with thousands of your fellow infielders. It’s the ultimate walk of shame, really: girls are barefoot, clutching at broken-strapped heels, mascara loosened by humidity and maybe tears of joy after a win. Bros high-five and whoop exultantly, some guys avoiding eye contact with their bros, worried that maybe some of those things they said to each other after six juleps each were actually a little  homo despite their protestations. Oh, and the smell. Ah, Eu de Infield Exite – rancid puffs of body odor from the limping infielders around you, with a hint of stomach acid, a thick haze of sticky-sweet cigar smoke. 
     After you leave Churchill you’re basically at the mercy of the existential void Derby leaves temporarily in this town, like a sudden sucking vacuum consuming all the hopes and dreams and heaving heartache of our city. All the spent fireworks and tax dollars, all the crushed Vineyard Vines swag. We are tired, we are sunburned, and we fear for a moment we will never get out of this traffic, never get a table for dinner, never escape to our beds. Just roll with this despair. It actually is not possible to be stuck in traffic forever.
    Images: Elizabeth Myers
    Elizabeth Myers's picture

    About Elizabeth Myers

    Big fan of bacon and bourbon, deep fried anything, sweet tea and sweet nothings.

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