By Kathryn Whitney Boole

When I was 5 years old and living in Cincinnati, Ohio, my parents were invited to go to the Kentucky Derby in our neighboring state of Kentucky. I still remember my Mom’s excitement in selecting her stylish outfits and dramatic hat, and my Dad and his friends poring over the history of the racehorses trying to pick a winner. I myself was just enthralled with the beauty of those majestic creatures with their graceful and powerful bearing.

Going to Churchill Downs in Lexington is a rare opportunity to see and be seen, in the latest and most colorful trends in fashion, at an event that is (shockingly) not part of the entertainment industry. In fact, anything goes – sun dresses, billowing skirts, shorts, rompers/ stylish suits, khakis or shorts for the men.

The race’s founder, Colonel M. Lewis Clark Jr., envisioned an event that would be both relaxed and luxurious, to evoke the famed European horse racing events of his time. So, in 1875, the first Kentucky Derby took place, and has been run each year since then on the first Saturday in May at the most legendary race track in the world, Churchill Downs. It’s the longest continuously held sporting event in America. Each year approximately 120,000 Mint Juleps are served to almost 160,000 people, over the two-day program of races culminating in the Kentucky Derby, a race often called “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” Twenty of the top thoroughbreds in the world compete in this first race in the Triple Crown of Racing, to be followed later by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes races.

Last year American Pharoah became only the 12th Triple Crown winner in history. This year Southern California boasts a local horse, 3-year-old unbeaten colt Nyquist, out of Santa Anita in Arcadia. Could he be the 13th Triple Crown winner? Jockeys and trainers alike agree that each horse has a unique personality. Nyquist’s quirk is that he does not like to be passed by other horses- he will do what needs to be done to be leader of the pack.

Here in Santa Monica this Saturday, you can immerse yourself in the color, the excitement and the rich history of the Kentucky Derby tradition. The members of the Santa Monica Lions are presenting their inaugural Kentucky Derby Day event at St. Monica’s Grand Pavilion. You will sip on endless fresh Mint Juleps and wine and sample plentiful hors d’oeuvres with a Southern flair created by Chef Derek Walker. You will have the chance to bid on extraordinary gift baskets and take part in the Derby Hat Contest (or just watch). Horse racing will be broadcast on the big screen, with “betting” on the winners, culminating in the Live Feed of the Kentucky Derby at 3:34 p.m. Join your friends and neighbors — your presence supports our Santa Monica Lions Club Benevolent Fund, with which we aid those in need in our community and people who are vision impaired.

The event will be held Saturday, May 7, from 1 to 5 p.m. St. Monica’s Grand Pavilion is located at 725 California Ave., in Santa Monica. Tickets are $75 each and are available online at http://bit.ly/derbyday16 or at the door.

Kathryn Whitney Boole is a member of the Santa Monica Lions Club. Reach her at kboole@gmail.com.