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The First Saturday in May

My mother decided in 1978 it would be “fun” if we attended the Kentucky Derby. So we loaded up and headed to Louisville early that first Saturday in May.

Naturally, I had to bring friends to share in my first experience. After all, 15 year olds travel in packs.

In hindsight I am sure my mother would realize after a few short hours in the infield with teenage girls surrounded by highly intoxicated people that this was probably not one of her best ideas.

I never saw a horse. I do remember trying to get a spot to watch the race. The closest we could manage was behind what seemed like giants. They wouldn’t move and we were not brave enough to try to budge them.

I do recall getting in a long line for a coke. My friend and I saw a much shorter line and ventured that way. It seemed to move quickly and before we knew it we were walking away with a drink that wasn’t coke. Needless to say that was my first taste of bourbon in the form of a mint julep. A few sips and we both decided perhaps we should have stayed in the coke line.

I decided I never would attend the Kentucky Derby again unless I was with the “other people.” Here I sit 40 years later and that opportunity has not passed my way.

There is just something special about Derby Day. Friends gather, draw horses out of a hat and gather in front of televisions to watch the two most exciting minutes in sports.

If you live in Kentucky it just means more. The parade of horses prior to post time and the playing of My Old Kentucky Home brings tears to my eyes every year. It is the beauty of our state combined with the beauty of the horse. It is not just a race it is our race.

So until the first Saturday of next year we will all wait. Who knows…with some luck I might make it to where the “other people” are one day.

It’s breeding and it’s training
And it’s something unknown
That drives you
And carries you home
And it’s run for the roses
As fast as you can
Your fate is delivered
Your moment’s at hand
It’s the chance of a lifetime
In a lifetime of chance
And it’s high time you joined
In the dance

Dan Fogelberg

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