|Posted by Kristen Geil on May 9, 2011 at 10:30 AM|
This year was my second year in a row going to the infamous infield of the Kentucky Derby. And not to brag or anything, but I've dominated it both times. I haven't gotten lost, arrested, or injured; in fact, the worst thing that has happened to me has been losing money on horses. I can deal with that.
So while the experience is still fresh in my mind, I'd like to offer a few tips to complement David's piece on the Derby (which was spot-on, by the way). Read this now, and reread it again next year when you boldly go into that famous oval of debauchery.
DO: Overprepare for any possible scenario.
This year we had a 60% chance of rain. Accordingly, Layson and I packed no less than four outfits each and 3 pairs of shoes. We had cute dresses, rowdy redneck ensembles, clothes to wear if we went out that night, and shorts and t-shirts for the ride back. Shoes-wise, we had cowboy boots (two pairs in my case), wedges, and rain boots. Overkill? Maybe, especially considering we wore exactly one outfit and one pair of shoes. But better safe than sorry.
Equipment wise, you need a lot of stuff. Ponchos are always a good idea- portable and disposable. Someone may even try and share your poncho with you, so they help you make friends too.
Towels, trash bags, chairs and tarps if you plan on setting up camp in the field (which we never did because we like being free to roam around, but maybe you prefer settling in for the day).
And a cooler- don't forget that. Even if you don't take it into the infield, chances are you'll attend at least two pre-parties before heading to the infield, and a cold beverage is a necessity.
Our most treasured item that we brought this year was perhaps the simplest- a bag of pretzels. Snacking on it throughout the day kept us in good shape, and we made lots of friends by offering them to those with growling stomachs. Pretzels are clutch, and don't you forget it.
DON'T: Drink too much right out of the starting gate.
It's a marathon, not a sprint, and the Derby doesn't run until six. Don't be the person who doesn't even make it in the gates. It's just not cool. You want to remember your Derby stories for the next day.
DON'T: Try and bring alcohol into the infield.
I know- beer is $5 and a mint julep is $10. Who in the infield has that kind of money? It's really tempting (and let's face it, super easy) to tape a flask or plastic bag of liquor to your leg and sidle on past the security guards. But in the carefree party atmosphere, you may thoughtlessly whip it out in front of an undercover cop, resulting in your expulsion from the infield and the end of your Derby experience. No bueno. Instead...
DO: Bring in drunk fruit.
What? How is this possible? Easy. It's completely legal and allowed to bring food into the infield- it just has to be in a clear plastic bag. So start getting crafty. A week before the Derby, buy a couple of containers of cut-up pineapple and a fifth of pineapple rum (you can also use peaches, apples, oranges, or all four, and tailor your rum flavor accordingly). Soak the pineapple in rum for a week. The day of Derby, cut it up, pack it in a plastic bag, and voila! A perfectly legal and savvy Derby snack. I'll admit that the texture of drunk fruit is not the most appetizing, but by the time you get into the infield you'll probably be brave enough to suck it down.
A fringe benefit of this strategy is that fruit makes perfect ammunition in case you need to throw something at people. I don't know why this would be necessary, I just know that it happens.
DO: Have some sort of unusual accessory that makes people want to take pictures with you.
The best part of the infield may very well be the instant camaraderie between all of its inhabitants. Literally everyone there is your best friend. You will meet some of the craziest, kookiest folks in the world, and while your conversation may not last longer than a minute, you'll remember it for a much longer time.
One of the best ways to make new friends is to wear something silly that makes you stand out. In me and Layson's case this year, we thought it was going to be the fact that we were wearing our matching cowboy boots- mine are turquoise, hers red, and they are ALWAYS a crowd pleaser. Always.
I even found a girl with the same pair and a few other things in common. CRAZY.
But then, our friend Brittany's mom decided that we needed Derby hats and that she would buy them for us. Naturally, she went to Rite Aid and came back with mini-sombrero fascinators. Words cannot express how popular these made us and how many people wanted to take pictures with us. It was awesome.
In that same spirit, return the favor. Ask to take pictures with people whose accessory you admire, and strike up a conversation from there. Instant bonding will ensue. As pictures will show, Layson and I tended to be drawn to anyone wearing an article of clothing with the American flag on it. What can we say, we just love America so much!
DON'T: Attempt cheerleading stunts in the infield on pavement.
So it may happen that some people admire you and your two friends' mini sombreros. Perhaps they will ask for a photo- nothing unusual there. But to spice the photo up a bit, they insist that you be doing something funny in the picture. Naturally you hit upon the idea of a cheerleading stunt- two people lifting the third in a basic move. Nothing fancy. Something you've probably even done before, to great success.
But, you do it on pavement. And without a back spot, the lift just isn't that steady. So the flyer loses her balance- NOT HER FAULT- and kicks one of her lifters in the eye with her boot. Oops.
After regrouping and correctly executing the stunt for said picture, it comes to your attention that the injured party is bleeding behind her sunglasses. GO FIND AN EMT. They are actually super friendly and helpful, even willing to let you tour the ambulance for a second.
Of course, all this only happens if you go against my advice and attempt a stunt in the first place. Which you shouldn't. It could turn out a lot worse. At least do it on grass and with a backspot.
That's all the tips I have. I was a bit conflicted because naturally I wanted to advocate going downtown on Derby night, but the past two years I've actually just driven back to Lexington after taking a power nap. If anyone has tips on how to push through that barrier, please share.
Derby is exhausting, but completely worth it. I've loved my infield experiences, but maybe next year I'll be a little more glamorous and actually sit in the grandstands... maybe.
Like Hef and his girls.