Kentucky Derby

In May of 1956, I was a freshman at the University of Kentucky, playing clarinet in the UK band which provided the primary musical performances for the Kentucky Derby. I had never attended the Kentucky Derby before, although, at 18 years of age, I had followed the derby for many years listening to radio broadcasts. Because this was my first major horse race, I had no knowledge of anything about racing, and I (together with all members of the Univesity of Kentucky band) were in the "infield" with the horses running around us.

Churchill Downs

After our playing of My Old Kentucky Home, I distinctly remember that I was able to secure a spot standing right at the edge of the inner field "rail" and just around a turn. I could only see a very small portion of the race track and I assumed that the direction of the run would be clockwise. As the announcer proclaimed And They're Off, I had my head sticking out over the race track, looking to my left awaiting the arrival of the horses. Instead, the race was run counter-clockwise! (I guess all horse races are!) To my surprise, I suddenly felt clods of dirt thrown into my hair as the horses ran past me. I was only able to view their tails as they passed - running the opposite direction of what I had anticipated.

Needles came from behind (in 16th place) and won the Derby. This was a full year before I even met Phyllis, who later became my wife. Even though we lived in Louisville only a few blocks from Churchill Downs after we married, we never attended another Kentucky Derby. However, since that time, Phyllis and I have seldom missed listening to the broadcasts of the Derby, or watching it on TV.


The spectacle of the horses, crowd, excitement of the race itself is only part of the total experience at the Derby, however. As is obvious to anyone who has watched the event on TV, hats are always on display - primarily worn by women who attend the party. One of the best known and revered wood artists is our son, Chris Ramsey - master woodturner. Among his many artistic creations are his lathe turned wearable wood hats. He is frequently commissioned to design and create custom fitting hats for both women and men.

Kentucky Governor and Mrs. Paut Patton
with Chris Ramsey all wearing Ramsey wood hats

Governor Patton proudly wearing his Ramsey wood hat at the Derby
with Katie Harman, Miss America 2002
Derby Call to the Post
Chris and friends at racetrack with Call to the Post Bugler all wearing wood hats
Abe Lincoln
Sometimes even "Honest Abe" appears
wearing a Chris Ramsey wood hat
at Dogwood Flats, Kentucky

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear wearing a wood hat
with Chris and Jonathan Ramsey

Other Events

Throughout Kentucky huge parties occur with sizzling pots of burgoo stew, cornhole games, dancing, wagering, and drinking. The 2019 Run For The Roses coincided with the Somerset, Kentucky High School Prom, and one of our grandsons, Jonathan and his date, Bailey, were celebrating his Junior/Senior Prom. Can you recognize the boy in the picture above who is also the man in the picture below?

Prom 2019
This is the same Jonathan who is pictured (above) in the photo with Governor Beshear!


Another favorite addition to the Derby party is the traditional Mint Julep beverage.

Mint Julep

Mint Julep


4 to 5 mint sprigs (leaves only)
2 sugar cubes (or 1/2 ounce simple syrup)
2 1/2 ounces bourbon whiskey
Garnish: mint sprig

Steps to Make It:

Place the mint leaves and sugar or simple syrup into a julep cup, collins glass, or double old-fashioned glass.
Muddle well to dissolve the sugar and release the oil and aroma of the mint.
Add the bourbon.
Fill with crushed ice and stir well until the glass becomes frosty.
Garnish with a mint sprig.
Serve with a straw and enjoy!


Gently muddle your mint. You want to open up the veins of the mint leaves to release the essential oils, not tear the leaves to bits which will eventually get stuck in your teeth.
Crushed ice is key. Making crushed ice without a machine is another use for your muddler: Place ice cubes in a Lewis bag (cloth bag made specifically for this purpose) or wrapped in a towel and whack the heck out of it until your cubes become finely crushed ice. (This is a wonderful and safe stress reliever).​
Stir well. Once you have the drink built, take the time to stir it gently until the glass gets frosty. This should take at least 30 seconds, but the longer you do it, the better.
Pour your favorite bourbon. It is best to choose one of the higher-end brands for the simple fact that bourbon is the only liquid in the julep. Though it is sweetened and flavored with sugar and mint, the whiskey is primarily what you will taste.

The above recipe (with variations) can be seen at: The Spruce Eats

Mint Juleps

We sincerely hope that your Kentucky Derby experiences were more joyful than those of the owners of the 2019 disqulified horse, Maximum Security. Have another Mint Julep! Thank you, I believe I will!

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