This is the Wednesday of Derby Week, so that means it’s time for the Great Steamboat Race. This year it’s the Belle of Louisville, hometown favorite, racing against the Belle of Cincinnati to win the coveted Golden Antlers. Restaurants and parks along the Ohio River on both the Kentucky and Indiana sides will be packed with enthusiastic fans. To be honest, no one cares who wins. It’s all light-hearted fun and the captains of the opposing boats always seem to enjoy giving TV interviews about why their boat is the best and will win the race, and afterwards dramatically accusing each other of cheating. The allegations of cheating are usually well-founded, but nobody cares about that either. There’s always next year, and we’re all just happy to have the Belle cruising up and down the river, calliope music playing. Every schoolkid has been on a Belle cruise or three as a field trip, and it seems to be a tradition for every Louisville high school’s senior class to rent it out for their own private Belle Cruise.
Most Louisvillians feel strongly about the Derby and Churchill Downs, but some feel compelled to express their feelings in a more, um, visual way.
Meet my friend Tony. He loves horse racing, loves Churchill Downs, and has been attending the Derby for about 25 years now. He did a few years on the Third Floor in the Clubhouse, and even one on Millionaire’s Row, but most years you’ll find him in the infield. Here’s another picture to help you put the “Churchill Downs” tattoo in perspective.His left shoulder blade is a tribute to Rush (If you didn’t listen to any music in the 70’s and 80’s, they’re a Canadian rock band) and he also has expressed his love of the University of Louisville and Hilton Head with ink. If there’s more than that, I don’t want to know about it.
I asked for Tony’s opinion as an Infield Veteran on a few burning issues:
What is the ideal spot in the Infield?
If you are young, the third turn is a MUST. It is out of control craziness. Nakedness abounds. But I’m too old for that now, so the first turn is ideal. It’s labelled the “family area” even though it gets crazy, too.
What are the essentials to take with you for a day in the infield?
You have to have a hat and a pop-up tent or shelter or the sun will kill you. Take your own food because the food there is SO expensive. Booze, too, if you can find a way to sneak it in. If you are young you need to bring lots of really good Mardi Gras beads. Girls will do a lot of things for the good ones!
Oh, my. “Nakedness abounds.” There’s a quote for you! I remember many years ago when my brother-in-law was getting ready to go to the Infield on Derby Day, and he had a pair of fake binoculars that was really a flask. He also poured alcohol into Ziplock bags and taped them under his clothes. He kept walking back and forth in front of us asking, “Can you tell?” Hilarious! And my husband, who used to be the Cubmaster for our sons’ Cub Scout Pack, saw people at Scout-A-Rama (which is held in the Infield about a month before Derby) burying bottles in hopes that they could find them again Derby Day and dig them up. Kind of like huge, alcoholic squirrels. By the way, today just happens to be Tony’s forty-ninth birthday ~ Happy Birthday, Tony, and thanks for humoring me once again!