by Patrick Snow
As I attended a Kentucky Derby function this past Saturday, it was never more evident that Southerners must throw a pretty good party. We are probably more known nationally for our college football crowds and pageantry, but the spring events in our Swampland footprint have become ‘must attend/see’ for those throughout the country. Like it has for over one hundred years during the first weekend of May, The Derby hosts thousands of Southerners for the big race, but it has now become a week-long event full of celebrities. This year alone, such different and wide-ranging personalities as Hugh Hefner (and the ‘Girls Next Door’), Smokey Robinson, Edward Norton, Terrell Owens, Travis Tritt, Dwyane Wade, Dr. J., Lee Ann Womack, Joey Fatone, Eddie Money, Adrian Grenier, Gabrielle Union, and Chelsea Clinton flocked to Louisville for the festivities. We have seen a similar growth in national attention at the Daytona 500 and the Masters, or even at music festivals like South by Southwest or Bonnaroo. Heck, outside of NYC, the biggest St. Patrick’s Day celebration in America is in Savannah, Georgia.
I believe the key factor to why our Southern events have become so big is the word ‘event’. When you look at the most popular sporting contests in our area, they are not just an athletic competition or a 3-hour diversion. They are an ‘event’- great entertainment that is part of our very fabric. Every detail matters at these events, from the food to the beverages to the fashion. You hear people refer to the “passion” of Southern college football fans, and that same excitement comes out at the Derby, the Daytona 500, or the Masters. You can’t attend one of these events without feeling like you have thousands of friends who want you to enjoy yourself to the highest level. We in the South take pride in what we put on the grill, what we serve at the bar, or what we wear. Whether it’s as simple as a homemade pimento cheese sandwich at Augusta or the perfect mint julep at a blueblood party in Louisville, the same enthusiasm is shown in the preparation for our big events as the passion we bring to cheering for our favorite competitor(s).
Simply put, we like our sports and we like to have a good time. I am continually amazed walking around an SEC football or Talladega tailgate party at the elaborate spreads that fans create. Whether it’s the dressed-up display at The Grove in Oxford, the blue-collar crowd in the infield of Daytona, or the mixed group at Churchill Downs, good times will be had by all. In the South, we insist on it.