[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Allow me to brag for a minute. While I’m not the seasoned Oaks/Derby veteran that Hayley Minogue is, I have been to the infield for the past two years, and each time, I survived. No, I more than survived. I dominated that infield. While a plethora of bad things can potentially occur when you mix day-drinking with horse racing and 80,000 other people, I have implemented strategies to successfully avoid these scenarios. For your safety and general well-being, and because I don’t want to lose a SINGLE one of our roughly four hundred readers (please, someone, tell me we have more readers than that), here’s my list of do’s and don’ts for the infield.
DON’T: Go too hard out of the starting gate.
When it comes to the infield experience, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the Derby doesn’t run until 6:24 pm. Don’t be the person who doesn’t even make it in the gates. It’s just not cool. You want to remember your Derby stories for the next day. Stay hydrated, my friends.
DO: Be prepared for ANY possible scenario.
Anything can happen, and like a good Boy Scout, a skilled Derby-goer must be prepared. Isolated thunderstorms are forecast for Satutrday, so stick a 99 cent Rite-Aid poncho in your pocket. Wear sunscreen. Bring your own toilet paper. Sounds stupid, but just do it. If you plan on setting up camp on a little patch of grass, bring towels, chairs, tarps, and trash bags. Fun fact- coolers are allowed in the infield, as is food if you have it in clear plastic bags or containers.
If, like me, you’re more of an explorer than a settler, have a comfortable backpack or cross-body to carry your supplies. Carry around a jumbo bag of pretzels to snack on throughout the day and you’re sure to make new friends while soaking up any beverages you may consume. A personal Papa John’s pizza costs around $7. I can’t afford that. Pretzels it is! On a related note- cash. Have it on you. Debit cards can be lost or stolen, and ATMs will likely charge a stupid fee. Cash is king, friends.
DON’T: Try to sneak in alcohol.
I know- beer is $5 and a mint julep is $10. Who in the infield has that kind of money? It’s really tempting (and let’s face it, super easy) to tape a flask or plastic bag of liquor to your leg and sidle on past the security guards. But in the carefree party atmosphere, you may thoughtlessly whip it out in front of an undercover cop, resulting in your expulsion from the infield and the end of your Derby experience. And that’s an even bigger waste of money. One savvy way to get around this if you are over 21 and responsible enough to consume in moderation? As I previously mentioned, food is allowed in the infield, so get creative with some alcohol-soaked fruit. You’re welcome.
DO: Bring some goofy accessory to make people want to take pictures of you.
Gratuitous picture of pretty friends at Derby.
The best part of the infield may very well be the instant camaraderie between all of its inhabitants. Literally everyone there is your best friend. You will meet some of the craziest, kookiest folks in the world, and while your conversation may not last longer than a minute, you’ll remember it for a much longer time. One of the best ways to make new friends is to wear something silly that makes you stand out. In my case last year, this was a yellow sombrero fascinator. I don’t know why people got a kick out of it; we got them last minute at Rite-Aid for roughly two dollars. But, combined with turquoise cowboy boots, other people in far superior costumes wanted to take pictures with us. Having a conversation-starter accessory is a great way to meet people and get into the “everyone is my friend today!” mentality of the Derby infield.
DON’T: Fall victim to the post-Derby “power nap.”
This has happened to me two years running and is the only blemish on my stellar Derby record. After the day-long Derby festivities, you will be very tired. When you are very tired, you will think taking a quick power nap at someone’s house sounds like a good idea before going out. When you lie down for a 20 minute power nap, you will actually sleep for four hours. When you sleep for four hours, you wake up sober yet somehow more exhausted than when you fell asleep. When you wake up sober, yet exhausted, you will realize that going out downtown sounds miserable at the moment and you’d rather go sleep in your own bed. When you realize this, you will drive back to Lexington and thus not go out in Louisville. When you drive back to Lexington and skip going out in post-Derby Louisville, you will get made fun of by EVERYONE YOU KNOW for being a wimp and you will have low self-esteem and end up working at McDonald’s because you’ve flunked out of college.
I could go on, but that was already excessive. Don’t take a power nap. Instead, hydrate a ton and eat a decent meal. Drink some coffee if necessary. Just don’t, don’t fall asleep.
Above all else- have fun and go with the flow. Plans are nice but often the moments that end up being the most hilarious are the ones you never could have anticipated. Make me proud, BBN.
Got any other tips for surviving the infield? Tweet em @KristenGeilKSR
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