The 138th Kentucky Derby this weekend saw racing enthusiasts across the country celebrate with all of the traditions of Churchill Downs. But as our Andrew Sorensen tells us Vernon Downs added a little spice to their fifth annual Derby Fest this year.
VERNON, N.Y.-- Placing a bet on the Kentucky Derby is a tradition like Thanksgiving, but much more exciting.
"It's the first race of the Triple Crown, everybody loves the Kentucky Derby, everybody!" Don Gensler, a long time thoroughbred racing enthusiast, explained before the race began at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Perhaps the most enthusiastic fan at Vernon Downs for Derby Fest, Gensler has been watching and betting on thoroughbred racing for most of his life.
"Since I was about five years old with my father, seriously, a long time," he said.
Not everyone at Derby Fest is so serious about racing, but they have just as much fun.
Because the Kentucky Derby falls on Cinco de Mayo this year, Vernon Downs decided to put some new spice into an age old tradition.
"Well everybody's got to wear a hat to the Kentucky Derby. And this is the next best thing if you can't go to the real thing," Derby Fest Hat Contest participant Joanie Miller said.
Even if that hat is a sombrero. Vernon Downs offered 500 dollars for the best one.
"Well there's probably plenty of hats been worn at the Kentucky Derby, but I don't know if there's been a sombrero, but I'm sure there will be this year," said Vernon Downs Race Secretary Scott Warren.
Good thing there isn't a code on Derby hats, other than the flashier, the better.
"This is a triple crown hat, all of my other ones are sequins. I've got 40 of them. 40 hats, all different colors," Gensler said.
Even if you're not wearing a hat, most of these people say it's really just the thrill of the chase they bet on when they celebrate the Kentucky Derby.
Vernon Downs continues their harness racing season with races every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night through the spring and summer.