I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
May 5, 2014
The Kentucky Derby is a full on assault to the senses. Fueled by mint juleps and money, it is a massive see-and-be-seen swirl of outlandish hats, colorful dresses, and a sea of seersucker. I knew my first-ever Derby would be an experience to remember. I had no idea it would be one of the best days of my life.
I was invited to attend as a Cottonelle Correspondent along with bloggers Erin, Whitley and Sarah, so as our driver put it, my first Derby experience ‘spoiled me rotten.’ We were driven from our hotel Saturday morning straight to the front gates of Churchill Downs. Once inside, we were met by a Cottonelle team member and shown to Cottonelle’s Clean Room, the stop-off point for celebrities to grab a drink and refresh their hair and makeup before hitting the red carpet just outside the door.
If you watch television at all, you’ve probably seen the Cottonelle commercials featuring Cherry Healey, the plucky British blonde who’s not afraid to talk bums to any and everyone she meets. Cherry was on hand in the Clean Room to interview celebs for an upcoming episode of Bethenny. Between interviews, we chatted with Cherry over drinks as she gave us the scoop on the various stars she’d interviewed. While we were talking, Carson Kessler stopped by several times, Mary Wilson of The Supremes gave Cherry a hilarious interview, a few NBA players ducked in (literally) for photographs, and Jamie Foxx breezed through with an entourage, holding his daughter in his arms. As you can imagine, I could have stayed in the Cottonelle Clean Room all day and left happy—but this was only the beginning.
Celebrities weren’t the only ones enjoying a clean, fresh Cottonelle experience – The public restrooms on the terrace level at Churchill Downs also were transformed by Cottonelle into a more Derby-friendly stadium bathroom. After all, when you’re dressed in your best, the last thing you want to do is muck around inside a dirty public restroom.
Fresh flowers in mint julep cups (and Cottonelle coupons, which disappeared as quickly as they could put them out) decorated the tables and sinks and Cottonelle Clean Care Toilet Paper and Cottonelle Fresh Care Flushable Cleansing Cloths were in every stall. The wipes, by the way, are now a must-have in my purse- Not only do they come in handy if a public restroom is out of toilet paper, they’re also great when I’m out with my kids, who always seem to be in need of a wipe for one reason or another. And when a Derbygoer in line ahead of me later that day complained about her lipstick feathering, she gratefully accepted one of my wipes and was able to quickly remove it from her mouth. Hey. I’m here to help!
Once red carpet appearances were over and the Cottonelle Clean Room closed up shop, my new blog friends and I went out to the red carpet and snapped some photos. While we were out there, Whitley noticed that one of her favorite designers and his fiancee were standing right beside us. She introduced herself and told them she was a fan of their designs and we all took a few more photos together.
With a few hours still remaining until the big race, it was time for us to check out the fashions. If you ever have the opportunity to go to the Kentucky Derby, I’ll tell you right now that there’s no such thing as “too much” when it comes to your hat. When it comes to Derby hats, the bigger and more outlandish, the better. Here are just a few examples:
And lest you think these hats were the more outrageous at the Derby, let me assure you- They were THE NORM. I was happy with my own hat, but if I ever get to go to the Derby again, I’ll definitely put a little more thought into it!
Here I am, probably wishing for more hat cowbell.
Stop. Selfie time.
And now comes the most unexpected moment of my Derby experience.
When we visited the terrace level Cottonelle-decorated bathrooms, we’d noticed that the betting windows on that level were much less crowded than they were on the first floor — so we decided to go back to the terrace to place our Derby bets. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the staircase that led to the terrace.
We asked a member of the security team for help and he pointed us to a nearby elevator. We showed our badges and were allowed on the elevator to go upstairs. There was just one problem- The elevator we boarded didn’t go to the second floor. It went to the 3rd, 4th, and 5th floors.
The doors opened onto very fancy third floor where a raucous party was in full swing. We tried to play it cool and act like we knew where we were going. The doors next opened to the fourth floor, where the surroundings were even more ornate and the crowd even more well-dressed. The doors closed. Finally, the doors opened onto the fifth floor, where extremely well-heeled men and women ambled serenely about in what looked like a very swanky country club. We had no choice. We got off.
“Passes,” a security guard said as we entered. We showed him our badges. “Okay, you’re good,” he said.
We were good? Oh yes. WE WERE GOOD.
We didn’t quite know where we were, but we sure did know that we liked it! Parties were going strong in every room off the main hall, all of which opened onto the racetrack. Outside the roms, buffet tables were laden with fancy foods and an opulent bar offered a panoramic view of Churchill Downs. Just outside on the terrace, we had a birds-eye view of the track. We stopped there to take (lots and lots and lots of) pictures and watch one of the early races.
Back inside, we decided to go ahead and place our bets there, where there were no lines at the wager windows. I had the names of the horses I wanted to bet on, but I needed their numbers- We stepped inside one of the party rooms and asked a man holding a Derby program if he could help us out. Graciously, he obliged.
“You’re wearing a Danza button,” one of the girls noted. “Is that who you’re betting on?”
“You’d better believe it,” he said. “Danza’s going to win.”
“Really?” I said. “That’s not what everyone else is saying. What makes you think that?”
“What makes me think that is that the owner is standing right behind me,” he said.
I looked around. EVERYONE was wearing a Danza button. We were in the owner’s box!
We had somehow miraculously stumbled onto Millionaires Row- The most exclusive level of Churchill Downs. What luck!
I went back outside and placed bets on both Wicked Strong and California Chrome for the win. Sorry, Danza.
It was tempting to just stay on the fifth floor- but thanks to our friends at Cottonelle, we had amazing seats on the first level, just a few rows up from the track and we all wanted to see the races up close. So down we went– stopping on the third floor for a quick photo at the Turf Club on our way back to earth.
We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then made our way to our seats– The big race was set to begin in just thirty minutes! “My Old Kentucky Home” was sung, the horn was blown and the horses were off!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to see the races from the stands? Wonder no more.
I don’t know who that screaming woman was in the background of that video, but I can promise you that she only had ONE mint julep. Also? Her horse won.
And coincidentally, so did mine.
Erin had also bet on California Chrome, so as soon as the race was over we made our way to the Wager Windows to collect our winnings. I had placed a bet for my family on California Chrome as well, so my total winnings were $42.70.
TIME TO GO SHOPPING!
After a very full day, we were all exhausted but so very happy. We met our driver outside the gates and headed back to the hotel.
It was truly a perfect day and I’m so very grateful that Cottonelle gave me the opportunity to be part of it.
And if I ever get a chance to go again, I’m jumping on it- this time with an even bigger and better hat!