By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
The Kentucky Derby may be the most exciting two minutes in sports, but Regional Rehabilitation Center volunteers will make the soiree last for hours on May 1.
The 12th Annual Kentucky Derby Party will keep the tradition alive with fun and elegance from 3 to 9 p.m.
“It’s a classy event,” said Alan Banks, who serves as president of the Regional Rehab board of directors.
The location is the same – 419 and 425 Robins St. in Tupelo, but this year Michele and Allen Worthey will join Tom Evans as cohosts.
Although the horses will be at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., the organizers bring the fun of the Run for the Roses to Tupelo with over-the-top hats, mint juleps, great food, music by Tim Pruwitt and grown-up fun.
The race is delivered via TV, but participants can lay wagers using play money called “Derby Dollars.” The competitive spirit can be unbridled during live and silent auctions.
The silent auction includes several offerings from local artists, including two striking stained glass pieces, furniture, gift certificates and jewelry. The live auction uses the Derby Dollars for fun items.
“We have tremendous local support,” said Regional Rehab executive director Kay Mathews “Things have continued to grow over time,” like the enthusiasm over the hat contest.
In 2009, the party raised $15,000 for the center, which provides free physical occupational, speech therapy and early intervention services to people around Northeast Mississippi. The 52-year-old center has helped more than 150,000 people during its existence. This year, they are hoping to bring in $20,000 for the center through the party.
For the organizers, it’s bittersweet that center founder Nita Butler, who passed away in March, will not be a part of this year’s festivities. But her sugary legacy will endure.
“Nita had been the mainstay for candy making,” Mathews said. “It has been taken over by her daughter-in-law Diane Butler and granddaughter Kari Robison.”
The other culinary traditions, such as the pork tenderloin and Mathew’s chicken salad will continue.
“We would not dare change the food,” Mathews said.
The atmosphere is kind of a summery, dressy casual with ladies in sun dresses and gents in golf shirts and khakis.
“It’s not coat and tie,” said planning committee member Lea Rankin, but it’s not flip flops and T-shirts either.
The hats, which are traditional for Kentucky Derby, are not required, but they’re so much fun.
“The first 50 couples will get the red carpet treatment,” Banks said, and have their pictures taken as they arrive at the event.
12th Annual Kentucky Derby Party
When: 3 to 9 p.m. May 1
Where: Homes of Tom Evans and Michele and Allen Worthey at 419 and 425 Robins St., Tupelo.
Who: Because grown-up beverages are served, no one under 21 is admitted.
Benefits: Regional Rehabilitation Center
Cost: $40 a person; $300 for a table of 8; unlimited beverages $80 a person; $550 a table.
Tickets: Call (662) 842-1891 or from Austin Dental Clinic, Go Creative Athletics & Arts, and Reed’s Book Store.
Parking: Available at Milam School