The Kentucky Derby is this weekend, but for those who can’t make it to Churchill Downs, Alabama is throwing its own party. The historic town of Madison is hosting what it calls “the South’s original derby.” Five large screens throughout downtown will broadcast the race on May 5, while mint juleps are served and hats encouraged for a contest.
Derby Days also honors Northern Alabama’s equestrian history, as the area served as the original host to some of the world’s most prestigious horse races in the early 1800s. Prominent resident of Madison County, Elijah Boardman, owned prize-winning horses and hosted races on his property, currently know as Redstone Aresenal. People from all over the world brought their finest horses to race in Northern Alabama, and these once famous races actually predated the Kentucky Derby.
Other activities include hot air balloon rides, live music by Nashville songwriters, mechanical bull rides, historic home tours on Front Street and demonstrations from Master Gardeners, a vintage car exhibit and more. Betting will also be available, and those picking the winning horse will be eligible for a grand prize of a $200 VISA card. That evening, derby goers can switch from mint juleps to margaritas, as the party continues downtown for Cinco de Mayo.
Derby Days kicks off at 10 a.m. and will take place on Main, Front and Church streets downtown. The TV broadcast of the race will begin at 4 p.m. The hat contest will be at 1 p.m., and the after party continues at Bandito Burrito. All events are free.