The Saturday a week before the Derby is the site of a grand party supporting the Kentucky Derby Museum on the grounds of Churchill Downs. If you ever get a chance to go to Churchill Downs, allow yourself some early time to go to the Museum. It is a wonderful experience and it makes the track even more historic than it is. The exhibits and the artifacts found there would even make Damon Runyon characters drool.
The year before when we went to the Gala, we actually drove through a special gate, and then through a tunnel to the center of the tract, where the pavilion had been erected for the party. That was pre 911, and security was changed and much more strict and controlled. We still drove through a special gate, but then we had to park and a special bus came by, verified our tickets and then drove us to the pavilion for the party. The title of the party was “An Ascot Gavotte” or “An Ascot Dance.” The guest artist for that year’s poster was also known for another career; Tony Bennett was there and he was autographing his poster at a table. He was there as an artist and not as a performer.
At our assigned table, each place setting included a silver frame with the evening’s menu set into the frame. When we looked at the menu everything looked wonderful. The First Course was a Prince of Wales Salad comprised of Mixed Greens and Watercress in a Radicchio Cup with a Stilton Blue Cheese Crouton and Grilled Shrimp in a Port Wine Vinaigrette. The Entrée for the evening was a Queen’s Cut of Prime Rib with Warm Horseradish Sauce. This was accompanied with Bubble and Squeak Potatoes (don’t ask, as I cannot remember what they were) and Herb Roasted Vegetables. For Dessert we were served Princess Charlotte Russe Trifle, which I also cannot remember the details of, as we were just having so much fun. The people watching and the celebrity watching caused the memory lapse, I am sorry to say.
We were greeted with California Champagne as we entered the pavilion, and then one could go to any one of the numerous bars that were stationed around, and I can assure you that Maker’s Mark Bourbon was the drink of choice that evening. For dinner there was a choice of two wines to have with our dinner. The first was Bonterra Chardonnay from Mendocino County in California which we had before dinner started and with the First Course as well. The second wine which we had that evening was also from Mendocino County Fetzer Eagle Peak Merlot. Due to the heightened security I refrained from asking for two empty bottles to take home for the labels, so I cannot show you the actual labels, which is my usual display. Both of the wines are popular priced wines, but paired well with the dinner and I am sure that one of the wine distributors for Kentucky may have even donated the wines for the occasion.
After dinner, it was more people watching, more drinks of your choice and the chance to do some dancing to the sounds of a great society orchestra. Suffice it to say that my Bride and I as well as her Sister and Brother-in-Law were some of the last to leave. When it comes to dancing my Bride never wants to leave the dance floor, even for another libation. We had a wonderful evening and then we went to Churchill Downs the next day to donate more money via the Para Mutual Windows and enjoyed the buffet up in the club house.