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Where Do I Go In May
May 2, 2010 - Al Stephenson
For those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis, you know the drill by now. Each month I let you pick what sporting event you would like to attend. All you have to do is choose. Of course I am going to try to steer you to the event that I would like. Since this is usually an exercise in fantasy, we pick with the knowledge that it isn't likely to happen anyway.
May is different. With all due respect to Nascar's All Star race followed a week later by their longest race of the year, as well as the PGA Tour's Players Championship, to me May means one of two events. I have been to both and you can go to. They are both close (about 5 hours will get you there) and they are not just for the rich and famous.
Our first possibility is the Kentucky Derby. The longest running sporting event in the country (the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is second - one year behind), this year's event was the 136th. Though yesterday's weather was a little dreary, the Derby is quite the tradition.
I went there once in 1980. No, I did not sit in the grandstands (those seats are for the rich and famous as the right to by tickets are put in peoples wills), instead I was relegated to the infield which is inhabited by a large number of crazy people. Yes, I did feel right at home. Actually my friend and I went down a couple of days early and spent too much time enjoying Bluegrass music and sipping mint juleps on Friday. I spent about eight hours in the infield wondering why I hadn't behaved a little better the day before.
The Derby is the 8th race on a day when 11 races are held. Though I was in the center of activity at Churchill Downs, I didn't see a horse until the ninth race and then only briefly as they galloped by down the backstretch.
The place is electric however and the crowd gets teary eyed when My Old Kentucky Home is performed. It is a great venue and I would definitely return.
The other choice would be the Indy 500. I have been there on mulitple occasions and always enjoyed myself. Many people in the nearly half million in attendance will not see a race car as the atmosphere is a party one. People come a week in advance and by Sunday many are a little burned out.
My guys had seats behind the pits on the inside of the track. We got to see some unbelievable pit action including fires. You don't acutally get to see a lot of the race. We got to see the cars race down the front stretch and charge into the first turn. Then you had to wait for them to return.
That was OK with us though. We taped the race and would watch it when we got home. To be at Indy is incredible. There is a twenty minute time frame - from the playing of taps, to the invocation, listening to Jim Nabors sing Back Home Again in Indiana, the playing of the National Anthem, the flyover and releasing of the balloons, to Gentlemen Start Your Engines and the dropping of the green flag - that will send goose bumps all across your body. If you don't enjoy that time period there is something wrong with you.
For me the choice is simple, but the view from my seat suggests that this may be a month when you can double dip. A trip to the Derby and the 500 in the same year? Awesome!
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