The 137th Kentucky Derby is officially under way. Held in Louisville, Ky., at Churchill Downs, the annual thoroughbred horse-racing event draws thousands of fans, celebrities and revelers to the “River City” from all over the world to witness what’s called the “fastest two minutes in sports.”
Derby Day, which is held every first Saturday in May, is typically framed by celebrity-studded events around the city that support important causes. This year, young black men and cancer research took center stage.
The 100 Black Men of Louisville held their annual black-tie Derby gala on Thursday, May 5, during which 10 formerly at-risk young black men were awarded thousands of dollars in college scholarships. In order to be eligible for selection, the youths had to excel in school, stay off drugs and serve as “big brothers,” or mentors, in their communities. Dinner, dancing and a concert featuring Dwele and legendary group Cameo rounded out the auspicious evening.
The Julep Ball, which benefits the research and clinical care provided by the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in Louisville, was held on Friday. Always the evening before the Kentucky Derby, this black-tie event gives attendees the opportunity to mingle with celebrities and participate in silent auctions and other activities to support the cause. Comedian Tracey Morgan, football star Reggie Bush, Chilli from TLC and actress Tichina Arnold were among the celebrities at this year’s event.
Pre-Derby events included the annual Churchill Downs-hosted Kentucky Oaks. The Derby eve race, which features “fillies running for the lilies,” both primed the thousands of horse fans that descended upon the track for the “richest two minutes in sports” and, this year, also brought awareness to cancer research through a partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The stadium was a sea of pink in support of finding a cure for the potentially deadly disease. One dollar from each Oaks day admission was donated to the organization.
Louisville, Ky., has been abuzz this week with event after event and though the reason for the season — the Kentucky Derby — will be held today (May 7), it won’t stop there. There’s much more celebrating to do and more causes to support.