As told by ALA Event Coordinator Joyce King Jennings
Photos by James Eaton
What to Expect
As if Derby Eve is not reason enough for celebration, this year will have guests “dancing in the streets,” with the Magic of Motown as our gala’s theme. The American Lung Association Gala is sponsored by Kindred Healthcare. The event at The Seelbach Hilton will begin at 8 p.m. with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
The Seelbach’s Medallion Ballroom décor will take you back to the Motown days, with “Burning Las Vegas” supplying the music from the Motown generation.
From start to finish, the Derby Eve Gala will be a first-class evening of entertainment, featuring delicious hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, a seated gourmet dinner with wine service and a full-service open bar.
Planned for both corporate and private entertaining, the Derby Eve Gala is the party for dining and dancing in grand style, while partaking of Louisville’s distinctive local charm in the one of the city’s most elegant and historic downtown hotels.
Companies are encouraged to organize one or more tables of business associates, friends or clients for a special evening of entertainment. The cost is $3,000 for a table of 10. Individual seats may be reserved at $300 per person.
The History of the Gala
I founded the Derby Eve Gala 28 years ago as an alternative to corporations who needed to entertain big groups of out of town guests. Rather than going to a restaurant or renting a space, I offered them a seated dinner and entertainment in the brand new Medallion Ballroom of the Seelbach.
Chrysler Triple Crown, the Louisville/Jefferson County Office of Economic Development, and the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau all entertained at the gala, and it was a roaring success from the beginning.
How It Helps
Proceeds from the gala benefit the American Lung Association in support of the fight against lung disease, the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Contributions help fund medical research, patient services, education and advocacy for public policy in support of the association’s mission to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease.
The Famous Faces
We’ve had a few celebrities attend over the years – some invited and some not. Carl Lewis (the fastest man in the world at the time, winning nine Olympic gold medals) happened to stroll in, but he was at the wrong party. He did say hello to the folks on stage and told them he was not going to run in the Derby, so don’t bet on him and he can’t outrun the horses!
Another unexpected guest was O.J. Simpson, who caused quite a stir. He was a guest of the owners of a horse farm in Lexington. Without a doubt, the most honored guest was Gloria Stuart (“Titanic”), who wore the beautiful sapphire necklace and blue outfit she had worn a few months earlier at the Academy Awards.
For the past 24 years, the gala proceeds have gone to the American Lung Association of Kentucky. A few years ago, it was a group decision that “star power” has gotten way too expensive. We are happy with our own recognizable citizens, the doctors who have saved countless lives: Dr. Wes McConnell and Dr. Thomas Altstadt. ESPN sports analyst Bob Valvano will attend and give the special appeal, and Jerry and Madeline Abramson will also be there showing their support as they have from the beginning.
Then again, you never know who will be stopping by unannounced. VT
Derby Eve Gala
8 p.m. May 4
The Seelbach Hilton
Up For Bid
We are thrilled to feature three incredible live auction items:
• Win an exclusive invite to the press conference in the stable area the morning after the Derby, hear from the winning owner, trainer and, of course, meet the winning Derby horse.
• Experience the Indy time trials as guests of The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports-Verizon Indycar Series team. Join them in their garage and observe the team of mechanics and technicians prepare the cars. Then, it’s on to the pits with the team drivers and cars.
• A Pappy Van Winkle Experience includes tasting three of the famous bourbons with Mr. Julian P. Van Winkle III, president of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery. Enjoy a delectable dinner for eight catered by Maureen Hartmann, executive chef and owner of A Full Plate Catering.
The highest bidder will be tasting:
• 12-year, 90.4 proof, Van Winkle Special Reserve
• 15-year, 107 proof, Pappy Van Winkle’s Family Reserve
• 20-year, 90.4 proof, Pappy Van Winkle’s Reserve