With ‘Jockeys and Juleps’, Jax Junior League puts hats, bow ties in limelight

Image of Jockeys and Juleps fundraiser flier from Junior League of Jacksonville on Facebook (@JuniorLeagueofJax )
Shown here on this trading card is the 1887 winning jockey Isaac Lewis who was only 17 years old at the time. (Image: US Library of Congress)
Shown here on this trading card is the 1887 winning jockey Isaac Lewis who was only 17 years old at the time. (Image: US Library of Congress)

If you’re a Kentucky Derby fan, chances are you mark the yearly event with some sort of gathering. We usually do that in our family, although this year my husband and I can’t because we’ll attend a personal event not related to the Derby. Various organizations sponsor events, and this year, the Junior League of Jacksonville has put together an event guaranteed to spotlight the fun in the word fundraising. There’s an artistic aspect to the Derby, although you may not have thought of it. There’s a contest to see whose “art” is the best, as a matter of fact.

In 1941 a bookie calculated bets for the Kentucky Derby. (Image from the US Library of Congress; by Marion Post Wolcott)
In 1941 a bookie calculated bets for the Kentucky Derby. (Image from the US Library of Congress; by Marion Post Wolcott)

Most everyone who loves the Derby also loves the hats and bow ties people wear to celebrate the race. There will be a contest for those wearers of hats and bow ties, and there’s no doubt much creativity will be on display. Have you ever tried to make a hat? I have, years ago. Hands on art was never among my talents, but I know others who can make a fine hat. If I were able to attend, I’d purchase a hat and credit would go to the designer.

For the price of a ticket, attendees get unlimited beer, wine and signature cocktails along with an array of Kentucky classic appetizers including Kentucky Hot Brown Sandwiches, Bourbon Meatballs, Deviled Eggs, Pretzels & Bourbon Cheese Dip, Salad and Pecan Pie.

Music will be provided by Rebecca Day*

The Junior League is open to all women and contributes to the community in a number of ways, including both educational and charitable endeavors.

The Kentucky Derby is that rare American tradition that has been run every year since its inception regardless of the state of the nation. This Derby has been run annually since 1875. As I was looking for photos from past races, I came across one of the more interesting images related to that event.

In 1887 the Derby was won by 17 year old Isaac E. Lewis. Lewis is listed in the University of Kentucky’s ‘Notable African Americans’ database. Here’s his bio:

“(born: 1867  –  died: 1919) 

Isaac E. Lewis was born in Hutchinson Station, KY, the son of Henry and Mary J. Lewis. Isaac won the 1887 Kentucky Derby aboard Montrose. His exact birth year is given as 1867 in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census [others have given his year of birth as 1870]. He rode as a 17 year old jockey in the 1887 Derby. He had been around horses all of his life; both Issac and his older brother Garrett Davis Lewis were listed in the 1880 Census as being employed working with horses. In 1900, Isaac Lewis was a groom at the Harlem Jockey Club in Proviso Township in Cook County, Ill. He is listed in the U.S. Federal Census as living in the Harlem Village where several other African Americans from Kentucky also lived, they were employed at the Harlem Jockey Club as cooks, jockeys, grooms, trainers, and stable boys. In 1910, Lewis was living in Chicago, and was manager of a Turkish Bath. For more see Black Winning Jockeys in the Kentucky Derby by J. R. Saunders and M. R. Saunders.”

The photograph of Lewis astride Montrose is from a trading card published by Kinney Brothers Cigarettes. Cigarette makers of the day promoted their products with images of cultural moments and people of note on those cards, and some of them are worth quite a bit of money today.

I can’t think of anything more artistic than the women’s hats at the Derby—they often defy gravity because of all the flowers and ornaments affixed. Some are created with humor in mind, while others are designed in a traditional manner. Whatever the look, the hats are one of my favorite things to look at on Derby Day.

Although women have long been part of aspects of the Derby, we’re still waiting for the first female jockey to take the prize.

The Junior League of Jacksonville ‘Jockeys and Juleps’ celebration promises to be a fun time for all who pay homage to what is probably the most riveting two-minute event in all of sports. Tickets are $60 for the event to be held at the Jacksonville Sheraton (10605 Deerwood Park Blvd.) on Saturday, May 4, from 4-7 PM.

(*Rebecca is my daughter; she is the founder of The Crazy Daysies, performing solo, and she performs duo most often with her sister Jennifer Day Thompson. No benefits are derived by me personally because of publishing this article.)

(Kay B. Day/April 29, 2019)





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