• John McGary, Woodford Sun Staff

Derby Eve celebration, Woodford style, set for May 6

The second annual Derby Eve Lexington will be in the city for which it is named, but with a distinctly Woodford County flavor. Organizer Donna Sturgeon, a former board member of the Woodford Humane Society, said the respected non-profit group will again be the biggest beneficiary of the May 6 event. "It's extremely exciting - it's like birthing a baby for the second time. It's a little bit easier this time. I'm so thrilled that we're able to do this again, that it was such a success and that it's been so accepted," Sturgeon said. Last year's inaugural gala was held inside tents and stables at Saxony Farm, parts of which are in Fayette, Scott and Woodford counties. "We went into the party with the old mindset, the parties of yesteryear - Anita Madden and Mary Lou Whitney, they did them on horse farms. So it was natural that we would bring a big gala back to a horse farm. However, we quickly learned about 9:30 the night of the event that our facility wasn't large enough ." Sturgeon said. This year, it'll be indoors, at the 20,000-plus square feet James Pepper Distillery Rickhouse on Manchester Street in downtown Lexington, which Sturgeon said can hold three times the 600 guests who attended last May. "Today's philanthropists don't like to travel that far, it's just not as convenient going to a horse farm outside Lexington. . Being close to transportation, to Uber and taxicabs downtown, being close to hotels, guests that are already in for the Derby, so it was sort of two-fold," Sturgeon said. Guests will arrive via a red carpet entrance and be served Four Roses Bourbon and Tito's Handmade Vodka specialty drinks as they arrive. A news release from the Derby Eve Lex group suggests the site will be no ordinary rickhouse. (A rickhouse is used to store whisky barrels for aging.) It will be "reminiscent of a turn of the century ballroom with thirty-six floor to ceiling pillars, decorated by some of Lexington's finest interior designers, including Zedtta Wellman of Gratz Park Inn and the duo Christy Anderson and Davida Patrick of Anderson+Patrick Designs." Sturgeon said additions this year include multiple caterers, a deejay playing between band sets and performances by various units of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre on the stage and in the crowd. Sturgeon said organizers hope to bring back last year's band - the Spazmatics, who describe themselves as an " '80s New Wave cover band with all the awesome sounds, styles, and way cool dance steps from the decade we'd love to forget." Plus, just in time for next day's big race, there will be psychics. "We've doubled the number of psychics. That was one of the most popular things last year - a free psychic reading. People stood in line for two hours," Sturgeon said. Sturgeon said a next-door parking lot is being built for the facility, and valet parking will be provided. A shuttle service from an as-yet undisclosed location will get other guests to and from the party. Sturgeon said the inaugural gala raised more than $20,000 for the Woodford Humane Society and other area non-profit groups, which included donations from Derby Eve Lexington organizing committee. She said they hope to net "upwards of $30,000 to $40,000" this year. This year's beneficiaries are the Woodford Humane Society, The Race for Education, New Vocations Racehorse Adoptions and the Retired Racehorse Project. Tickets can be purchased at www.DerbyEveLex.horse. General admission tickets are $100 and include admission, gourmet food, cocktails and entertainment. V.I.P. tickets are $350 per person and come with an an all access pass that includes entertainment, V.I.P. areas with a gourmet V.I.P. dinner, premium liquor, champagne bar and V.I.P. exclusive entertainment. Reserve V.I.P. tables at $2,500 per table of eight.

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