Squawk Radio

Friday, May 05, 2006

Liz's Heart Swells with Pride

If you’ve read my books, you know I like to write about rich people. About the glamour and refinement and elegance (and also humor) that comes with excessive wealth. That, of course, is wishful thinking on my part, since I’m never around rich people in real life. The closest I ever come is when I drive through the more opulent neighborhoods of Louisville after dark, when the lights inside the houses are on so I can be a Peeping Tomasina. But there’s one time of year when I can get closer to wealth than usual, and it’s happening now. I love Derby time in Louisville.

That would be the Kentucky Derby, of course, arguably the most prestigious horse race in the world. (Though, I’M certainly not going to argue about it.) Most people think the Derby involves only one day. But those of us who grew up or live in the Louisville area (or both, as is my case) know it’s way, way more than that. We start celebrating the Derby weeks in advance, and there’s something happening virtually every day for the two weeks preceding the race. This time of year, my hometown shines. And this time of year, I am more proud to be a Kentuckian--and a Louisvillian--than at any other.

Here’s what I especially love about my hometown this time of year:

Opening the newspaper every morning to see the list of the latest celebrities who will be coming to town.

Seeing all the elaborate hats for sale in all the department stores.

Watching the coverage of the Barnstable-Brown party on TV to see all the celebs make the walk from the street to the front door of the beautiful Tudor manor where the party takes place. It’s like a mini-Oscars.

Waiting for the little pictures of the jockey silks that line the top of the newspaper after the gate assignments are announced.

Watching the boat races. And the bed races. And the rat races. And the wine races.

Driving down US 42 toward my house and being surprised by a long line of limousines coming toward me from one of the Thoroughbred farms farther down.

Seeing two--count ‘em TWO--Lamborghinis in one day. And also Ferraris and Rolls Royces and way more Jaguars than usual.

The anticipation of opening the envelope that contains the Derby pin I just bought to see if it’s a gold one that could potentially net me $20,000. (And this year, it was!)

Watching the massive fireworks display that is Thunder Over Louisville from the edge of the Ohio River with hundreds of thousands of other people.

Driving past the airport and seeing hundreds of private jets parked shoulder to shoulder like cars in a mall parking lot.

Having the television on all day Derby day, tuned to race coverage, so that every time I walk through the family room I see some famous face being interviewed by one of the local news crew wearing an elaborate hat.

Wiping away the tears as they play “My Old Kentucky Home” while the horses and riders are walking slowly toward the starting gate.

The breathless excitement during the two minutes the race is run, trying to pick my horse from the rest of them and wondering if it will, as my picks usually do, come in last. (And sometimes being surprised by having my horse win, as Giacomo did last year.)

I love the Derby. I love Louisville. And I love being a Kentuckian more than anything else this time of year.

So what do you love most about the town where you live? What cool celebration or custom do you have in your city that nobody else has? If you’ve been displaced from the area where you grew up, what do you miss most?

And, as we always ask each other here this time of year, “Who do you like for the Derby?” Me, I’m going for Sweetnorthernsaint. I like the jockey silks for that horse. Hey, I figure that’s as good a reason for liking a horse as any.

Elizabeth Bevarly, 9:17 AM