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Keeneland is one of my very favorite things about the Bluegrass State, y'all. The races, the crowd, the fashion, the bread pudding... it's all pretty wonderful.
Some folks have told me, though, that the dress code is a little intimidating. So, the next few days' posts will focus on decoding the Keeneland dress code. First up, the lower levels.
If you're going to stay near the Paddock --General Admission, Grandstand, or Equestrian Room-- there's no need to dress up very much. Guys often opt for khakis and polo shirts, and women can wear slacks. You're actually dressing for a horse race in these sections. These are the areas nearest the track itself, and people are truly there to watch (and bet on) the horses. With that said, don't be surprised to see a lot of dresses and sport coats in the lower-levels. In recent years, a culture of dressy tailgating (think Steeplechase) has popped up among college students and twenty-somethings, and the second floor (General Admission) Sports Bar often resembles a campus bar or fraternity semi-formal; while the dress code says "casual", there's plenty of Vineyard Vines ties and Lilly Pulitzer to be seen.
Keep it classic and preppy with a Lilly Pulitzer dress from the Peppermint Palm and Jack Rogers sandals from Monkees of Lexington. Your beau can't go wrong with a Vineyard Vines tie from Country Club Prep. Don't forget your sunglasses, a cup of water, and a good dose of sunscreen if you're hanging around the Paddock or a tailgate; it's really easy to wind up dehydrated or sunburned! Check in tomorrow for a guide to the dining rooms' dress code.
Stay comfortable, look cute, and enjoy your day at the races!
Fried chicken, horses, white picket fences and farms.
These were my reactions when I learned that my family was moving to Kentucky. Granted, I was only 12 at the time, but based on whatever I “knew” about Kentucky, this was going to suck. I liked Georgia. I was leaving my world of friends, sweet tea, peaches, boiled peanuts and grits.
Unfortunately, I fought Kentucky for years. My introverted nature made it hard to make friends, and I always longed for a different place. I spent my high school summers at fat camp near San Diego, where I tried to convince people that even though I lived in Kentucky, I wore shoes and didn’t have a horse. I dreamed of going to college in California, which seemed so large and amazing to me. I applied to several California universities and got in to them. Imagine my crazy disappointment when the financial aid and scholarships weren’t enough to convince my parents (who were going through a divorce and my mom was dealing with a degenerative neurological disease) to spend $20K per year plus all my expenses when I could go to the University of Kentucky for next-to-nothing.
I grunted and grumbled and dreamed of other, more exotic places I could be. (Yes, at that time I thought California was “exotic.” Silly me). I was an advertising major, and went to an advertising conference in NYC and decided that I could go to California OR New York. And for that point, I could also go to Chicago or Atlanta. Truly, my stubborn mind wanted to be anywhere but Kentucky.
Looking back, I can see where my loyalties started to change. My freshman year I went to UK basketball games and joined the frenzy of the Big Blue Nation. I had blue eyeliner to write “UK” on my cheeks, and had blue nail polish to match. I went to Keeneland a few times and liked the pretty horses. I met a down-home Kentucky boy and fell in love. I was hooked, for better or for worse.
My blood turned blue when I got to grad school. I quit my job and went into an intensive MBA program at UK. There, I spread my Lexington wings and finally learned how to fly. Nights downtown sitting outside a bar nursing a bourbon and diet coke after a day of tailgaiting, horse races and socializing at Keeneland. I discovered the Lexington Farmers Market, apple picking at Boyds Orchard, events at The Limestone Club, and corn hole in the backyard. And vineyards - did you know Kentucky has many of them, on old tobacco land? This girl even got married in one, under the speldor of the Kentucky fall (on the day that UK beat LSU's #1 ranked football team, no less. The UK fight song erupted over the DJs speakers). My grooms cake was Lexington's famous Spalding donuts, and we drank Kentucky wine and Kentucky beer.
I now hang out with a friend in her Highlands neighborhood in Louisville, wandering up and down Bardstown Road along with the hipsters in the hoodies and prepsters with Bugaboos. I even *gasp* joined the Junior League and quickly learned to appreciate all things Lilly Pulitzer, but more importantly, the value of serving the community. This summer I experienced my first Kentucky lake, with the beautiful surroundings and friendly, beer-drinking boaters. The rest of my family left Kentucky years ago, and I've chosen to stay here.
I may have been a late bloomer, but now, my Kentucky is my home.