Friday, June 7, 2013

A Day at the Races: Third Annual Kentucky Derby Party

This year I was prepared. I knew exactly what to expect and what it would take to win. I plotted out my success, carefully planning what my newest wine hat would look like. I wanted to make sure I captured the most glorious of prizes: Best Wine Themed Hat at Bending Branch's Third Annual Kentucky Derby Party.

Me and my hat

I won't bore you with the details, the days it took to build my newest bare hat into a collage of wine and the Texas hill country. I will say that drilling holes through corks to make a hat band was tiresome, messy, and difficult. However, I am pleased with my end result -- a movable hat band showcasing corks from wineries throughout Texas. Then there were the nights I pondered what flowers to put on and where, what about the grapes and grape leaves. And with the final night, I made the final touches to make the hat over the top, wine crazy. And of course it was all worth it; I took the prize I sought.

But to say the hat contest is all the Kentucky Derby party is about just doesn't say much. This year saw a much larger, diverse turn-out, and it also saw some of the most snappy dressing I have seen -- the weather was so nice it was easy to be a bit more in the spirit. Sean and I happily chatted with all those folks we know and see often at Bending Branch. And this year, we met even more wonderful people who were coming out to the winery and/or the party for the first time. Like last year, people mingled and chatted the day away, sharing in a way that I only see people do over a glass of wine. Somehow, at this event, walls always break down and people get to know one another. I realize my hat is always a great ice breaker -- I posed for a number of photos -- but there is something about the atmosphere that makes it easy to just introduce yourself to someone and start a new conversation.

Folks gathered to watch the parade of hats

As the throng of contestants gathered for the hat contest, this congenial atmosphere was most apparent. We shared our inspiration for our hats, as well as all of our tricks to making them look just right. I heard many of the folks complain about the weight; they regretted using a lot of glue to hold the hats together. Really, my hat should have been heavier (I wore a grape vine train), but I opt for a clear jewelry thread and sew everything on. My approach takes longer, but it makes the work last longer and doesn't add the weight of glue. And as we chatted, one-by-one we made the walk in front of the tasting room. And after we walked, and waited for the results, we cheered one another on, supporting each other. Though the contest is a competition, it is one of the most supportive, friendliest ones I have ever encountered.

Hat Contestants Post-Walk
The hat contest isn't the only game in town. This year's horseshoe contest took a while to get filled -- Bob Young asked me at least twice if I wanted to give it a try. Despite all the hesitation, the game turned into quite a competition. The game went on longer than anticipated. And after a long hard fight, a winner finally emerged.

With all the frivolity about us, it could be hard to settle in and enjoy the less active entertainments. It wasn't hard to find a comfortable shady spot to enjoy a nice breeze, cooler than normal May temperatures, and even cooler live jazz. And as the day wore on, Fresh Hot Brown sandwiches and Bourbon balls were quick to satisfy. And as always, single barrel Picpoul Blanc mint juleps quenched our thirst. This year, the juleps were a wonderful balance of flavors; I found mine so smooth that I drank it all without noticing.
Single Barrel Picpoul Blanc Mint Julep

There was a major change from last year. For the race last year, we all huddled on the patio in front of the tasting room. Though the crowd wasn't as big as this year's, we still couldn't fit in that space. So John Rivenburgh rearranged his garage into a viewing space. The mass gathered into John's three car garage where there was ample seating and places to rest a bottle or glass. Though it did get a bit stuffy, it provided more space and better viewing for the larger crowd. It was easy to see the horses parade on to the track, as well as to see my chosen horses lose.

Gathering to watch the race

The year's party seemed to have a great sense of class: the men dressed in their hats and bow-ties, or in Sean and John's case Guaybera shirts, and the ladies sported light and fetching spring dresses. From the moment we arrived till the moment we left, Sean and I found ourselves caught up in a good time, sharing it with wonderful people. Here's to next year.

1 comment:

  1. No mention of the wonderful place we were staying? Are we trying to keep that our little secret?