I owe my marriage to the Derby.

by Jourdan Fairchild in ,


Many, many years ago, in a teeny weeny West Village apartment, I hosted my first Kentucky Derby party. I'd been living in Manhattan long enough to have survived the first job/apartment/friend search, but on days when the subway was extra crowded and the guys at the deli were extra pushy about my sandwich order, I longed for the rolling hills and quiet, slow pace of life in my home state. It's not that I wanted to move back. But celebrating the race gave me a chance to honor where I came from and introduce my mostly non-Southern pals to the traditions surrounding the day. My mom shipped up official printed plates, napkins, and balloons, and I pulled out old family recipes for pimento cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, and Derby pie. My biggest cheat dish was KFC—but those buckets went faster than anything else I put out. Guests would place bets on their favorite horse to win (anything more complicated was too confusing!), and then go wild at my DIY mint julep bar. My apartments were always much smaller than my guest list, but we made do. It was so much more than just a party to me. And then on Derby day 2009, everything changed. Andrew almost didn't show up (he was invited by our mutual friend Meghan—we still owe you, girl!). Thank god he did. For the next three Derby days, Andrew was my sous chef, my bartender, and my co-host. He perfected his mint juleps, and worked diligently beside me to make sure guests were having a great time. And this year, things have changed again. This weekend sits smack dab in between two weeks of finals for Andrew. I'm juggling a ton of assignments. Hosting a party in a new city under such stress would surely kill us. But we've both agreed that we're just pressing the pause button for a year or two. The Derby party will return again, once we have the space and the sanity to make it bigger and better than ever.

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