The world knows about the Kentucky Derby, but it is the Kentucky Oaks that holds a special place in the hearts of Kentuckians. It has long been considered the racing day for “the People”, as locals take the opportunity to get into Churchill Downs before tourists get in for Derby day.
The Oaks first ran in 1875, over time the race has evolved from a much smaller race at the Louisville Jockey Club to an event that annually attracts over 120,000 people from all walks of life. The Oaks is more than a mile and an eighth or a garland of lilies, for Kentuckians it is a moment of a communal and unified feeling before we as a state walk become the center of the world. Where else do schools close for a horse race?
What makes the Oaks and Derby feel so Kentuckian is a unity that seems to surround the festivities. Starting on Friday, inside and outside of Churchill Downs, the Commonwealth comes together. The people set aside red & blue, political party, urban or rural, and instead start a weekend chock full of our unique Kentucky traditions.
When we started Friends of Limestone almost a year ago, one of our main reasons for doing so was to advocate for and celebrate the things that bring Kentuckians together. Indeed, FOL truly believes that we have more in common than we do differently.
With this in mind, on this Kentucky Oaks Day whether you are at the track, watching at home, or work we challenge you to talk to someone you may not see eye to eye with. Strike up a conversation about what Oaks and Derby mean to you. Share a glass of Kentucky bourbon, or just a glass of water (both of which we owe to Kentucky limestone).
From such a conversation we imagine you will find that for maybe 363 days a year you share very little in common. For two days a year, a unifying feeling takes over, making us all Kentuckians. By doing this, we as Kentuckians can show ourselves and the rest of the world, that when we come together, we are stronger than when we apart.
Here’s to hoping that the unifying nature of Oaks and Derby defines more than a weekend but also what it means to be a Kentuckian.
Join us, by taking the FOL Oaks Challenge. Share your story with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram about how Oaks and Derby bring people together.
Use the hashtag #FOLOaks to share your experience on Kentucky’s best weekend.