Kentucky Derby offers unique corporate incentive experience
By: Tracey Bockhop, CMP
When you think of the fastest two minutes in sports the furthest thing from your mind would be to plan an event around it. Sure, we have all seen women and men alike dressed up in their finest, drinking mint juleps and socializing. But have you thought that this elite event could play up a well-executed corporate recognition trip? First, think of the hype you could generate with the announcement of a corporate trip around attending the Derby. The big hats, mint juleps, jockeys, betting books and horses, the Kentucky Derby can be your host for the top go getters in your company. And planning a four day event around the fastest two minutes in sports can actually be very easy. Your first day can consist of a private tour of one of many bourbon tasting rooms on the Bourbon Trail, with an evening dinner overlooking the river. If time permits you could also add in a tour of the Louisville slugger museum.
Day two is about taking it all in and learning the ropes at Churchill Downs. Your first stop in the morning is breakfast at Wagner’s. Wagner’s is the place to go on Derby week and the history and service you receive there is memorable in itself. In fact, as I waited in line to buy my betting book the women behind the counter offered up a horse shoe worn by a horse training at Churchill Downs. It's the place where horsemen and racing writers used to discuss the day’s events over coffee and it's still the place to gather the insight on the day’s race ahead. Then it is off to the races.
Once you're inside the track there are a few options to entertain your group. The first day (Friday) is all about the Oaks. This is the second most important race of the weekend. You can choose to entertain in the infield and party with the locals, sit in the bleachers and socialize with the somewhat knowledgeable fans, or in a box where you can overlook the grounds and sit comfortably on top of the stands. Whatever your option is you can step it up a notch for the second day of racing. The night can be capped off with a huge party at 4th Street live, where other race fans will be in attendance.
Day three is the big day. You'll want to get to the track early to watch the horses loosen up in the paddock and take in all that Churchill Downs has to offer. This is the main event day where sitting in a box suite would be the best option. Crowds are tight and with a suite you can overlook the paddock on a semi-private balcony. It is limited to only suite holders and helps eliminate the pushing through the crowds. This day is all about the pomp and circumstance. Take it all in; learn the words to “My Old Kentucky Home” enjoy the joys of winning and losing on the track. After a big day at the track it is up to you to gauge your attendees’ whether they can keep on going or have a low key dinner all of which are available.
The fourth day can start with late brunch and some more of the Southern hospitality before your guests head home. There are many options in the area for entertainment and gathering. Key points to remember when bringing a group into the Kentucky Derby:
Plan in advance. Getting there is easy, but make sure to arrange for the vehicles you will be using to either drop off or park.
Bring cash. And if you are not hosting everything for your attendees, also inform them to bring cash. Most everything is cash only. Costs can add up quickly and the ATM lines are long.
Plan ahead. If your guests want to bring their famous mint julep glasses home, provide zip lock baggies with paper towels to cushion them.
Take it all in - not just the fastest two minutes in sports, but all that this event has to offer.