Lilly Pulitzer Commemorates the Lexington Junior League Horse Show

The 77th Annual Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show kicks off tonight at 6:30 at the Red Mile
Image via Lexington Junior League
Now, as I've said many times, both here on HerKentucky and elsewhere, Horse Show is my very favorite charity event in the Commonwealth. There's absolutely nothing else like it, and it's so uniquely "Kentucky"-- not only is it a significant fundraiser for the Junior League, it's also an elaborate, week-long Saddlebred horse show. In recent years, the event has become the world's largest outdoor Saddlebred show; it even serves as the first jewel in Saddlebred's Triple Crown. In addition to the various shows, there are nightly special events and an elaborate vendor hall full of equestrian-themed gifts. It's a fixture in Lexington's summer. And, I can honestly say that I've never seen more Lilly Pulitzer in one place.

Our friends at The Peppermint Palm know that Lilly and Horse Show go hand in hand, too. I recently chatted with Katherine Anderson, of the Lexington Peppermint Palm location. Katherine, who's also a member of the Lexington League, told me that she'd been inspired by the limited edition t-shirts that Lilly Pulitzer created for the Carolina Cup steeplechase event. When the folks from Lilly headquarters were in Lexington for a special shopping event with League members, a great idea was born. The designers at Lilly came up with a gorgeous t-shirt commemorating this year's horse show. 

image via Peppermint Palm.
When I stopped by The Peppermint Palm the other day to pick up my shirt, I simply fell in love. The Horse Show ribbon design on the front of the shirt is so richly detailed, and the Palm Girl (the new mascot for the Peppermint Palm -- I hear they're still deciding on her name...) icon is just gorgeous. Then again, I wouldn't expect anything less from the Lilly team. The best part? A portion of the sale of each t-shirt goes directly to the Lexington Junior League, funding their remarkable work across Central Kentucky. 

I love this idea: a gorgeous, limited edition t-shirt you'll actually wear which actually contributes to a great cause. All that for $25. You can contact The Peppermint Palm via their Facebook page to order your own.

If you're heading to the Horse Show this week, here's a link to the schedule of events.

Junior League Horse Show

Most good Southern girls have worked what seems like countless volunteer shifts at countless charity events. We've sold cookbooks and raffle tickets. We've led tours of homes and we've decorated for holiday markets. And we've gone to more dinners than we can even remember. They all seem to run together after a while. But nobody can ever claim that Horse Show is anything but unique. The Lexington Junior League Charity Horse Show, which takes place this week at the Red Mile Race Track, is unlike any other charity event you'll ever attend. For one thing, it's huge: now in it's seventy-sixth year, it's the world's largest outdoor Saddlebred horse show. It's also a really big deal, serving as the first jewel in the Saddlebred Triple Crown.
I've had the pleasure of volunteering at a few Horse Shows, and I have to say it's one of the most entertaining and unique events I've ever attended. Even if you know nothing about Saddlebreds or show events, it's an amazing spectacle. The delightful historic track and the show's pageantry provide a charmingly anachronistic evening. It's the kind of event where you see four generations of a family turn out to enjoy the show, and I've honestly never seen more Lilly Pulitzer prints under one roof!
Y'all should head out to the Red Mile for the remaining sessions of the Horse Show. I promise you've never seen a charity event like it!

Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon

Eight months ago, I would have laughed in your face if you said that I would ever run more than a half mile at one time.

On Saturday, I’ll be toeing the line to run 13.1 miles – well, attempt to run it all! I’m sure there will be some walking. (I’ll also be starting somewhere in the back of the pack, but I’m fine with that!)

I started the Couch to 5K program in August of 2011 at 90 pounds over my healthy weight. I learned how to run using an app on my smartphone and buoyed up by the encouragement of my Twitter friends. I ran my first 5K at the end of October. A month later, I was signing up for the Run the Bluegrass half marathon. Needless to say, I was hooked.

Run the Bluegrass bills itself as “one of the prettiest half marathons in America.” I can verify the truth of that claim.
Another view from today's run.
Starting near the main entrance of Keeneland, the race course flows out the back gate – near all the horse barns – and through the rolling bluegrass hills of Central Kentucky. Horse farms feature prominently along the course. There is even one pasture full of miniature horses who will run up to the fence and cheer you along. The final mile of the course runs alongside the famed white fences of Calumet Farm. The most beautiful thoroughbreds you’ll ever see will race you down the length of that fence. Undoubtedly, they will win!

The course is challenging. There are LOTS of hills! One portion of the course runs on Old Frankfort Pike past the Headley-Whitney museum. It’s one of my favorite backcountry drives in the world – both for the beauty and the roller-coaster feel of those hills. I’m not so sure my feet will feel the same joy on Saturday!
jesus H. I'm about to run up this hill.
The race, hosted by Lexenomics, has a decidedly Bluegrass and thoroughbred feel. Mrs. Penny Chenery, the owner of the legendary Secretariat, is this year’s honorary starter. The race expo offers the option for participants to buy a bottle of Maker’s Mark and have their caricature drawn on the label. Kentucky companies like Swim Bike Run of Kentucky, WellFed Meals, Ale8One, Flav-O-Rich and more are all well represented. The organizers are as local as you can get and have worked hard to follow through on their mission of “invest[ing] energies & resources into the capabilities Lexington already has.”

With over 2000 racers in only its second year, the event is growing by leaps and bounds. You’ve got plenty of time to train for next year! If I survive Saturday, I’ll see you in 2013!

Churchill verdict from a Keeneland Purist

A few weeks ago, I made my first pilgrimage to Churchill Downs. For many biased Lexingtonians, Keeneland is the "best" race track in the state. I've heard from the Lexingtonian's that Keeneland is prettier, people dress nicer, and it is just a better overall experience. My only Churchill Downs experience has been through my television, where I watch and judge those in the Kentucky Derby infield. 

At Churchill Downs
For my first trip to Churchill Downs, hubs and I were guests of my friend Melinda who is a Kentucky Colonel. Perhaps my experience was tainted by being on Millionaire's Row, which was nicely decorated for all the Colonels, but all the areas seemed great to me.

Horses are pretty no matter where you are.
The track was well maintained, bathrooms were clean, service was good, drinks were tasty (yum bourbon), and food was as advertised. It was noticeably larger than Keeneland, but that's to be expected.
The room setup with balcony access
All in all, I don't get the fuss between one track being better than the other. They're both Kentucky gems that we should experience as much as possible. Both are the same in one key aspect: I can't seem to win money at either of them.

So, who's taking me to the Derby this year? :)

Opening Weekend

I'd been in college for about a month when the first weekend of October rolled around.  I was surprised when I went to class that Friday morning -- suddenly, tons of guys were in coat and tie and girls were in the finest dresses that Laura Ashley had to offer.  I knew it wasn't a particular fraternity or sorority event at 11 a.m., so I sheepishly asked why everyone was so gussied up.  "It's Opening Day at Keeneland," someone responded. "People are going straight on to the track."

Image via Keeneland.
I grew up in a small Eastern Kentucky town -- one that adheres to pretty strict Baptist values.  I knew that Lexington was famous for its horses, and I even watched the Derby on television every year.  But, there was still a little piece of my upbringing that told me that racetracks are for gambling.  And drinking.  And, likely, cavorting.  Things that we just didn't do back home.  Soon, I wound up going for a day at the track with my sorority sisters, and found that it wasn't an unsavory enterprise at all.  In fact, it was one of the more civilized enterprises which I'd ever undertaken.  The beautifully manicured track, the call to post -- it was all so meticulous.  There were even attendants in the bathroom!  It was as though I'd entered a portal to a more sophisticated time somewhere along Versailles Road.

Image via Herald-Leader
Lexington is the Horse Capital of the World*.  The fragile, temperamental racehorses comprise the city's signature industry, and notoriously live more pampered, sheltered lives than most Lexingtonians.  City streets are named for the most famous horses, as are cocktails, restaurants, and anything else you can think of.  It's a far cry from my hometown, where, although you heard of the occasional pet pony, most horses were farm animals.  Horses plowed fields and occasionally entertained the kids; they certainly didn't have HVAC systems in their barns, nor their own pets. But, the day I stood in the paddock and looked in the eyes of a competitive racehorse, I knew that racing was the horse's true calling.  

After a year or so in Lexington, I began to take the track for granted as well.  I went to many Opening Days of my own.  I learned that I loved to take in the track on rainy weekdays, when the crowds were sparse and the jockeys compensated for sloppy tracks with more strategic riding.  Over the years, I've attended countless professional events in the dining rooms and meeting rooms.  I've introduced members of my family to the track.  And, yes, I've engaged in a little cavorting of my own.  But, no matter how often I visit the track, I always take one moment to remember my initial reaction.  Things just always seem a little nostalgic and a lot more sophisticated at Keeneland.  It's as though you're traveling through the track's 75 year history every time you walk into the Clubhouse or down to the rail. And that is, indeed, a magical journey.

* Get over yourself, Ocala.

Lexington Style

Image via Ralph Lauren.
Ralph Lauren famously once stated, "I could design my entire collection based solely on the style of three places: The Hamptons, Santa Fe and Lexington, Kentucky."  In 2006, Esquire Magazine named Kentucky the most stylish state in the Union.  And, legendary designers Mark Badgley and James Mischka's Central Kentucky horse farm is said to be as fabulous as their bridal designs. (Which, in a related note, why am I not BFF with Badgley Mischka? I think we've just set my goal for 2012, y'all.)

Image via Ralph Lauren
Lexington is far from a world fashion capital.  It'll never be confused with Milan, Paris, or New York.  But its style is undeniable.  It's still the kind of town where people dress up for a nice restaurant.  You don't see flip-flops or dressy shorts at cocktail parties, nor do "dressy jeans" constitute dinner attire.  It's the kind of place where a small-town haberdasher bases his collection directly on an suit designed for Edward VIII.

But, yet, Lexington seems neither as formal nor as over-the-top as these images suggest.  That Lexington style boasts a heavy equestrian influence is undeniable, but it's far less garish and in-your-face than Mr. Lauren would have you believe.  The town's truly horsey folk are often seen in faded, relaxed jeans and barn jackets, and their broken-in boots are constantly caked in mud.  And, Lexington never stops being an SEC college town.  When I think of Lexington's style, I immediately envision preppy frat boys in navy blazers and khakis tailgating at Keeneland with their sundress-clad girlfriends.  I picture the Junior League Horse Show, which boasts more per-capita Lilly Pulitzer dresses than the Breakers on Labor Day weekend.  I picture the ubiquitous needlepoint  and horse-harness belts.  And, then, I picture all the blue.

Kentucky Girl Dress via Red Dress Boutique
Wildcat Blue is everywhere in Lexington.  It isn't a gameday tradition; it's an everyday tradition.  You see it on license plates and serving plates.  You see it on casual wear and business wear.  You see it on well-heeled season ticket holders, who occupy the floor seats and the skyboxes.  You see it on the adorable little mamaws who've driven in from nearby counties to cheer on their team.   You see it on infants, for whom fandom is a birthright.  In so many ways, it's the color of Lexington itself.

My new besties, via Elle Decor
I think that Lexington's style is a great analogy for the town itself; there are some fancy aspirations, but it never forgets its small-town roots.  There are so many influences which combine for an elegant yet easy style.  It screams "authentic" rather than "couture."  It's way more than a brand name, a label, or a single "style."  It's a pretty, tasteful aesthetic as graceful as the Central Kentucky countryside.

But, of course, if Bagdley and Mischka ("Mark and James" to me, natch, since we're soon to be besties) want to meet me at Jonathan's for a cocktail soon, I'm all about the labels...

In Photos: Fasig-Tipton and Kentucky Horse Park

I wanted to share some photos from some of the land between the Kentucky Horse Park

and Fasig-Tipton near Lexington. When I think of what I am proud of about Kentucky, the beauty from these places can't be ignored. As a

reluctant Kentuckian

, I am ashamed to say I lived in Lexington for over 10 years and never saw this beauty. Shame.

These were taken while I was completing a half-marathon, and weren't all taken by my camera. They're in a jumble of photos from the event on my computer, mixed between my camera, my friend Amber's camera.

Seriously. How could you not think this is beautiful?

You don't see this everyday! (In Kentucky Horse Park)

In Fasig-Tipton

Entry to Fasig-Tipton

Look! The Lexington Police even made an appearance escorting my slow self down Newtown Pike!

It's amazing what you can see if you just break out of your little bubble!