Kentucky Derby Party: Tupelo tradition goes over the top

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

Tupelo’s most elegant lawn party will celebrate its signature accessory this year. “Even though it’s the Kentucky Derby, it’s all about the hats,” said Kay Mathews, executive director of Regional Rehabilitation Center. “We wanted to have fun with it.”
In addition to the traditional hat contest among party guests, there will be a battle among “sponsored” hats during the 3 to 9 p.m. May 5 event, held at the Robbins Street homes of Tom Evans and Michelle and Allen Worthey.
Jennifer Spearman, who won the 2011 hat contest, has already recruited 10 hat-wearers. People will be able to vote for the best hat by dropping donations into hat boxes.
“It’s open to anybody,” said Spearman, who can be contacted about the sponsored hats at (662) 844-3897.
Party goers don’t necessarily need a hat in the running to enjoy the annual event. Each year, the event serves up delicious food, music and mint Juleps, along with the horse race.
“The Southern tradition continues,” said Alan Bank, Regional Rehab board president.
Tickets are $40 and include heavy hors d’oeurves, mint julep and live music.
Participants get “Derby Dollars” play money to bet on the outcome of the Kentucky Derby. Then they can use their “winnings” to bid on items during a live auction. Art work, vacation trips, jewelry and other items will also be sold through live and silent auction using real money to benefit Regional Rehab.
This year, the raffle features a garden rock with a hand chiseled cross and a 1,500 pound boulder from the Stone Yard.
All the proceeds from the event go to help Regional Rehab. Every year, the center helps an average of 2,000 adults and kids free of charge. They provide physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, audiology services and early childhood intervention.
Over the years, the derby party has averaged about $12,000 a year.
“We’d be happy to bust that,” Mathews said. “We want to break $20,000.”

14th Annual Kentucky Derby Party
WHEN: 3 to 9 p.m., May 5

WHERE: Homes of Tom Evans and Michelle and Allen Worthey at 419 and 425 Robbins St., Tupelo

BENEFITS: Regional Rehabilitation Center, Tupelo

TICKETS: $40; $300 for table for 8; includes heavy hors d’oeurves, live music, mint julep, live and silent auctions, hat contests, Derby Dollars, draw down and raffle.

INFO: Call (662) 842-1891

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