There are many Derby traditions that are synonymous with The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports: big hats and mint juleps just to name a few. You can understand many of them through television, but the experience of being in the middle of more than 150,o0o people singing “My Old Kentucky Home” is incomparable.
After the call to the post, the horses begin to proceed from the paddock, accompanied by the UofL marching band’s rendition of our state’s song. It’s a surreal feeling when you hear the crowd exclaim, “Weep no more my lady.”
It’s something that cannot be topped, but earlier this week, I met a challenger. Wagner’s Pharmacy is a Churchill Downs staple, serving breakfast in the old building that’s adjacent to the track since 1922. During Derby Week, there’s always a long line. While sitting at the counter yesterday, I overheard the familiar medley. Someone waiting in the long line was playing “My Old Kentucky Home” on harmonica. The spontaneous song induced chills. It’s something I’ll probably never see again, but something I won’t soon forget.
There’s another new rendition that will produce similar spine-tingling results. Lexington cellist Ben Sollee recorded a version of his own from the warehouses at Woodford Reserve and it is spectacular.
Less than two days until we will all join in to sing one song for our Old Kentucky Home.