I have always been infatuated with all things derby. I love the sophisticated style, the southern flair, the large hats, the heels, and all the pre-race festivities that Derby weekend holds. Attending the Kentucky Derby was something on my bucket list. I would always decorate the house for the big race the first week in May.
For Christmas 2017, our incredible dental staff completely surprised us with a derby package, including stylish derby socks, custom derby cookies, and derby Christmas ornaments. Our final package was tickets for my husband and I to attend our very first Kentucky Derby.
The second quarter of 2018, and one week before the Kentucky Derby, I decided the timing was right for me to pursue my passion as a Style Influencer. I had no idea how quickly my Instagram page would grow, and later result in the release of this blog. It seemed fitting for my first theme week of @airicapuckettstyle to be “Kentucky Derby." I included looks, table settings, hats, bowties, race traditions, hostess gifts and much more. I could hardly sleep from the excitement of spending the weekend in Louisville for my very first Derby experience!
We drove into Louisville Thursday night and arrived at our hotel around 9 pm where red carpet was literally rolled out. Horse statues greeted you at the entrance, a live band was playing, floral arrangements dressed the lobby, and a huge rose wall was a photo booth.
Friday morning I woke up so eager to see the city of Louisville during its most popular weekend of the year. My husband, LG, and I headed to the lobby and were greeted with all types of equestrian vendors. We traveled from hotel to hotel to see all the wonderful vendors. The Hat Girls was my favorite derby shop that I visited! They were so busy, a bit sleep-deprived, and still working away, but they took time to talk to me and show me the “behind the scenes” of making their custom creations. I gifted these girls with derby cocktail napkins & hand creams.
For lunch, we met our sweet friends Jonathan and Sarah Cantrell, at 21c Museum Hotel, where the restaurant was loaded with fans in large derby hats, all headed to the Oaks.
After lunch, we headed to Louisville‘s newest hotel, Omni Louisville. Wow, what an incredible hotel they have to offer this beautiful city! They had photo booths of fresh floral walls everywhere. We hung out in “the library” of the hotel mingling and meeting new people.
It is amazing how many people come from all different states and even other countries to celebrate and watch the Kentucky Derby.
The Omni has a speakeasy (How Fun!!) hidden away among all the large pieces of art. Inside the speakeasy is a gorgeous two lane bowling alley where we spent hours competing. Let’s just say I was not hard to beat!
Friday night, we were invited to a dinner party at the gorgeous home of Walt and Vivian Weibel. They so graciously hosted five couples for a dinner birthday celebration and the most wonderful conversation.
Saturday morning- the day of the big race- I woke up bright and early like a kid on Christmas morning! I was so excited to experience my first Kentucky Derby that I could hardly contain myself.
We were so fortunate to be invited to a derby brunch that morning. It was epic! I am not sure how we made this guest list, but I am pretty sure our new friends, The Weibels, had something to do with it. I was just so proud to be there!
Meeting new people is my jam! I would love to meet at least one new individual every day! This party was the perfect pre- derby event for that. The hosts were so gracious, and the brunch they served was delicious! I still talk about that cake! Guest at this brunch included derby race horse owners, the “most interesting man”, some YouTubers, talk show and radio hosts, fellow business owners, and the sweetest of individuals. This brunch was the perfect start to a day I will never forget!
The weather decided to make history that day! It started raining heavily as we loaded on the shuttle bus taking us to Churchill Downs. The rain continued and continued, and this derby would go down as the wettest Kentucky Derby in history! I was not about to let it rain on my parade. I had waited for this for years and I was not missing it! As you can see, L.G. shared my enthusiasm.
Over the months leading up to the derby, I had spent a lot of time looking for the perfect thing to wear, and of course, the perfect Derby statement hat. My husband had surprised me in February on a trip to Dallas, TX and took me to Hadleigh’s to have a bespoke (custom) dress made for me. That experience, alone, is something I will always cherish with LG. To put it mildly, that gorgeous dress was about to be ruined! I must admit, the best purchase we made for the entire weekend was a set of ponchos on Amazon, that kept us completely dry the entire day. Now my shoes were a much different story! I was not about to wear the rain boots i had packed. I just felt like my first derby experience needed to be lived in heels.
My husband & I do not gamble, but we spent a lot of our time watching people place bets- mostly because this was in the dry and near the food.
When it was getting close to time for the big race we made sure to be in our seats early enough to not miss a minute of the experience. I held my phone under the large brim of my hat to keep it dry while I videoed everything. I cried when those gorgeous horses and jockeys whipped by in front of my eyes- I could feel the wind from their gallops. It was one of those moments you watched each year, as a young girl, and only dreamed of experiencing one day. I had chills from actually being there, and immediately looked at my husband and started laughing. All I could say was, “Thank you, Babe!”
That night, LG & I had a quiet dinner at Bob’s Steakhouse and relived our weekend and the whole incredible experience with each other. We decided right then and there- with jockey hats and silks hanging on the walls around us- that we would be back for another Kentucky Derby!
I am so grateful for our staff completely surprising us with a gift that created these amazing memories we will cherish for a lifetime.