The Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are notorious for their parade of some of the showiest headpieces around. What started as an elite custom (men and women of the upper-class were expected to wear a hat outside of the house) has morphed into a grand show of symbolic reverence for the traditions of the past. The Kentucky Derby and Oaks are host to some of the largest and most diverse displays of hat-donning visitors in the world. The styles of hats worn range from fashionable and classy to that of absolute hilarity and flippancy. There is also superstition involved in choosing the perfect hat, as many Downs-goers believe the hats improve one's luck of choosing the winning horse. Below are some pictures of Kentucky Derby and Oaks hats.
(pics by Velo Steve)
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By'n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady. Oh! Weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.
The history of this song dates back to the 47th running of the Kentucky Derby, after which The Courier-Journal wrote in their May 8, 1921 edition: "To the strains of 'My Old Kentucky Home' Kentuckians gave vent their delight. For Kentucky triumphed in the Derby." This article referred to the victory of the Kentucky-owned Behave Yourself in the 47th running. Though it is still unclear exactly when the song was performed in its early years, the song has been performed since 1936 (with a few exceptions) by the University of Louisville Marching Band as the horses make their way to the starting gate. The song was composed by Stephen Foster in the mid-1800's.
The Mint Julep has been the traditional adult beverage of Churchill Downs for almost a century. Early Times Kentucky Whisky has been a part of the tradition as well, as the Whisky distiller has been a part of the official Derby Mint Julep tradition for 18 years. If you cannot find the Early Times Mint Julep Ready-to-Serve Cocktail at your local retailer, you can make your own with this traditional recipe:
The Early Times Mint Julep
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- Sprigs of fresh mint
- Crushed ice
- Early Times Kentucky Whisky
- Silver Julep cups
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Early Times Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Below is a video that will instruct you how to make a "quickie" Mint Julep. Disclaimer: the bartender in the video uses Jack Daniels for the Julep and calls it "bourbon" when it is actually just a whiskey. A true Mint Julep uses a Kentucky bourbon, not a Tennessee whiskey.