If the Kentucky Derby was merely the most exciting two minutes in sports, it probably wouldn’t be.
But there’s so much more to the Run for the Roses that it turns into a weeklong party, and the celebration isn’t confined to the Bluegrass State. Here in Durango, the Rochester Hotel has become the place to be before, during and after the race, which begins at 4:24 p.m. Saturday.
Last year was the first Kentucky Derby party at the Rochester, and co-owner Kirk Komick said it’s already an official annual event, which is a fundraiser for the Durango Arts Center.
“We just wanted to do something for the Arts Center that’s collaborative, and they have so many events there that we wanted to get people out of their space and add some spice,” said Komick.
Two traditions that have become inseparable from the actual horse race, regardless of where the party happens, are mint juleps and those hats. Both will be featured prominently Saturday as Peach Street Distillers will stock the bar with local bourbon (and tend it) to give the juleps a Colorado flavor. And in preparation for the display of headwear, the Rochester will host a hat-making workshop Wednesday taught by Fort Lewis College Theatre Department head costumer Jane Gould. A hat contest will be part of Saturday’s festivities. A selection of hats made by Gould are on sale at the Durango Antique Market for those without the do-it-yourself bug.
Also Saturday, attendees can bid on a painting from the Race Horse series by Telluride artist Nicole Finger, whose works are on display in the Rochester lobby through May 15.
“We’ve got a 90-second race and a 2½ hour event, so we want to allow some art to come through,” Komick said.
In the event of rain, Saturday’s Derby party will be moved across the street to Mutu’s Italian Kitchen.