THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA HAS
great traditions including several great sports traditions
such as the World Series, the Super Bowl, and the Indianapolis
500. But few American sports traditions can match the mystique
of the classic American horse race known as the Kentucky
Run annually on the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs
in Louisville, Ky., it is the first and probably the most well
known of three races that make up the Triple Crown of
Thoroughbred racing (the other two are the Preakness Stakes
and Belmont Stakes). And along with the most well-known race
come some of the most well-known parties.
SHINDIGS OF ALL SIZES
Wayne Esterle, AIFD, KMF. owner of In Bloom Again, specializes
in party work and does some of the biggest and most
prestigious parties in the area during this exciting time of
year. "We do an average of about 25 Derby-related parties each
year:' he says. These parties range in size from 100 people to
nearly 1,200 people and are for some of the most influential
companies in the area.
"Most of the parties are corporate clients." says Mr. Esterle.
"Last year's clients included Brown Forman Corporation.
General Electric. Bell South. Labrot & Graham Distillery,
Aegon Corporation, Coca-Cola, PNC Bank, Caesars Casino, the
Churchill Downs Press Party, The Mint Jubilee, American
Airlines, and Dow Corning.
"One of the largest of those is the Churchill Downs Press
Party," he continues. "It's a cocktail party for the press
that comes here from around the world to cover the race. It's
by invitation only, of course, but it's about 1,200 people.
It's a themed party, with a different con¬cept every year."
Last year, the party had an Asian theme.
ONE LONG WEEKEND
What makes the work that Mr. Esterle's shop does around the
time of the Derby so taxing is that all of the parties occur
on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday that lead up to the race
(Saturday at 5:30 p.m.). So not only does the shop design and
set up flowers for about 25 parties. it has to transport goods
for and set up these 25 parties within three days. "We don't
really sleep that weekend says Mr. Esterle.
Since his staff regularly consists of only five designers, he
brings in about four more designers to help during Derbv week.
"Some of the designers are from other shops in the city [since
only two or three shops in the area do much Derby Work], while
several are from out of town. I have a couple of designer
friends who come from Cincinnati to help," he says.
The shop also provides the flowers for about nine hotels in
and around the area. decorating lobbies and meeting rooms for
Derby week. One of these hotels is The Seelbach Hilton.
Louisville. which is the area's four-star. four-diamond hotel.
With all the different projects during this busy time. the
shop's combined crew put together more than 1.000 arrangements
for Derby week in 2003. ranging from table centerpieces to
larger hotel lobby designs,
Although Mr, Esterle says he could save a bit of money by
ordering most of his Derby party flowers direct. he gets most
of them from Dreisbach Wholesale Florists, Inc. in Louisville.
Ky, "I just don't think it would be right to order from
someone else when they [Dreisbach's] take such good care of me
year-round. They're here 365 days a year. and they have
impeccable service." says Mr, Esterle.
Derby-related work accounts for about 15 percent of In Bloom
Again's yearly sales, according to Mr. Esterle, "The rest of
the year, we do a lot of weddings and other corporate events
along with some funerals and other types of regular retail
work," he adds, Though the shop doesn't have walk-in
customers, it still takes some retail orders over the phone,
AND ON TOP OF THAT
Being sure to take full advantage of all the tradition he can.
Mr. Esterle also operates a hat shop located in the Executive
West Hotel during the 10 days prior to the Derby.
And while he and his shop face many time-crunch obstacles
every year. Mr. Esterle is already grimacing at the thought of
Derby week 2005, "The Derby is always the first Saturday in
May." he says, "and in 2005, it falls on the same weekend as
Mother's Day. I always swore I'd be retired before that
When the Kentucky Derby started back in 1874, hats were
standard attire for ladies. While that may not be the case
today, wearing a hat is still a tradition that many women
follow at the Derby. In fact, some say that watch¬ing the hats
is the unofficial spectator sport of the Derby.
Most ladies wait until they get into town to buy their Derby
hats, and over the years, this has turned into a nice side
business for people like Mr. Esterle. Most of his hats range
in price from $100 to about $350.
"When I had my shop in the hotel, I designed and displayed a
few hats one year, and they all sold. So I started making more
and more each year. Last year, I sold more than 300 hats,"
says Mr. Esterle, who now rents a small space in the same
hotel just to sell hats during Derby week.
"About 90 percent of my clients are from out of state. They'll
bring in the outfits they plan to wear, and we'll trim hats to
match," he continues. Some hats require more work than others,
but nearly all the hats feature silk flowers as opposed to