If there is one past time I miss, it’s saddling up my adopted horse, Sweetie, and riding through the farmland of Missouri. My love for horses was passed down to me from my Father, who during my childhood, sold insurance as he also pursued his masters of education. Through this occupation, my father met one of the most fascinating people I’ve had the privilege to meet: Jimmy Jones. My mother, who was a travel agent, had Jimmy as a client and often booked his travel. As with most clients, you build relationships, thus during a conversation, my mother informed Jimmy of my love for horses. He generously invited us to visit his horse farm in Parnell, Missouri.
I was just 6 years old when I began to hear the stories of his Triple Crown race horses and their success at the famous Churchill Downs. It was on one of the tours of his home that his Kentucky Derby memories began to sink into me. I was able to look into the eyes of a man who had a history story to tell. During one of these stories I learned of the legend called “Citation”. He was a large chocolate, chestnut stallion and to quote Mr. Jones, “Could beat anything with hair on it. That horse had fire in his eyes.”
Jimmy, and his father Ben, trained great horses for over fifty years, but Citation, was Jimmy’s Champion. As we walked his home, full of his thoroughbred horse heritage, he told his sweetheart to grab a picture off the wall for me. It was the Great Citations, ‘Triple Crown Races’ of 1948 (The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness, and The Belmont Stakes) all in one photo surrounded by an emerald green frame. Mr. Jones loved that horse so much that he drove a chocolate colored 1980 Chevy Citation for the rest of his life. My mother asked him why he drove a Citation when he could afford any car. His answer was, “did a Cadillac ever win a Triple Crown?”
He was honored by Churchill Downs with a life-time seat box where he watched every Kentucky Derby for the rest of his life. We visited his farm several times before he passed away in September,2001.
Years later it’s my turn, to pass on this history. I have shared my love for these four legged creatures with another little girl who lights up when she sees horses, my own daughter. At almost four, she can’t get enough of these thoroughbred stories. She and I have begun watching the Triple Crown races on the TV Set the past couple years. I have told her someday we will grab her grandmothers and enjoy a girls ‘Bucket Trip’to Churchill Downs in the finest dresses and hats we can find for the main event.
So how do we make it fun at home? With some easy and FUN ideas anyone can pull together:
- Prepare The Food: The fun thing about a sporting event is the food can be buffet and serve yourself. If you want to be adventurous, research the names of the horses before hand and create dishes from these inspirations. For example, if the horses name is Chocolate Chip Surprise, you could make some chocolate chip cookies. Same goes for Blue Snow Berry, you could make a blueberry drink or some blueberry muffins. Grab a horse mold from the store and create some jello horses (always a big hit in our house). In keeping tradition Mint Juleps happen to be the drink of the derby, in its place I have posted a kid friendly recipe for a delicious milkshake I named ‘Ill Have Another Mint Milkshake’, in giving tribute to a favorite 2012 Kentucky Derby winner. You can find the recipe here: Ill-Have-Another-2.pdf
- Dress The Part: Put on the most craziest outfit you own. Let your kids wear whatever they want. Let them dress as a jockey or even a horse. Put your baby in a tutu dress or some adorable suspenders and bust out the camera. Take welcome to the derby pictures.
- Don’t Forget The Hats: The most unique part of the entire Kentucky Derby for me are the hats and if you don’t have one, make one. Grab some glue, glitter, scissors, pom poms, feathers, crayons, ribbon, markers and enjoy some family time making some out there and unique hats. Have a contest to see who made the most creative.
- Enjoy Fun Names: If you want to take it a step further create fun, classic southern names for the duration of the race. For example, I would pick Charlotte. Or you could even create your own horse names and remember to make them as eccentric as you can! Oh the endless possibilities here.
- Pick A Winner: Included in this post is a horseshoe you can print off, have them decorate (if they want) and everyone can write who they think will win on the horseshoe. Glue them to popsicle sicks and hold them up during the race. You can print off the horseshoe here: Kentucky-Derby-Party_Cut-out-your-horse-shoe-and-decorate..pdf
- Enjoy The Race: There is nothing like sitting around the television as a family watching history be made.