While the annual fall and spring meets at Keeneland can be routine to Lexington area residents, the track's ways and traditions can be mysterious to first-time visitors.
That is in part why Garden & Gun magazine, a periodical that chronicles the "soul of the South," has held one of its club events the opening weekend of the fall meet for the past three years.
"An outsider can come to a Garden & Gun event and feel like a part of Keeneland traditions," Caroline DuRant, promotions director for the Charleston, S.C.-based magazine, said as guests arrived at Keene Place Saturday morning. The event featured Southern how-tos such as how to bet with a Keeneland betologist and how to choose Kentucky barbecue with barbecue expert Wes Berry of Bowling Green. Later in the day, the guests were slated to go enjoy the races at the Keeneland clubhouse.
"We know very little about betting," said Annie Furrh of Atlanta, who was in Lexington for the first time with her husband, Leigh. "So this is invaluable to understanding what to do."
Betologist Jake Memolo was guiding the Furrhs, and many others Saturday morning, through the fine print of the Keeneland program.
But betting and horse culture are just one part of the Southern experience that the magazine was trying to usher its readers into Saturday. DuRant said Saturday's event and similar Garden & Gun presentations around the South and the nation are designed to let readers experience things they read about in the magazine.
The event also focused on culinary aspects of Kentucky culture, from bourbon to barbecue, even to "Devilishly Deviled Eggs," which Garden and Gun's forthcoming book, The Southerner's Handbook, referred to as "the ultimate appetizer."
"Some events will just bring in barbecue, but at our event, we go out and ask Wes Berry what his favorite barbecue is and get that," said Jed Portman, a Garden & Gun editor.
To Berry, who chose Sarah's Corner Cafe, focusing on food and events is a key part of establishing a sense of place.
"It's about what do you have, wherever you are living," said Berry, an English professor at Western Kentucky University. "Take barbecue. In Texas, it's mesquite barbecue, because mesquite is the type of wood they have to burn there. But here, we cook over hickory, because we have hickory."
To Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau vice president of marketing Mary Quinn Ramer, Garden & Gun and Lexington are an ideal match because, "The magazine is really dedicated to covering great stories of the South. The way we travel is very experiential, and they want to look at the authentic side of a destination."
Portman said the magazine aims to find hidden gems of the South and then highlight them at events. Keeneland, he said, was an example.
"A lot of people think of horse racing, and they think of Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, which is great, but they don't know this is here, and it's great," Portman said.
Garrett Barron of St. Augustine Florida said the Derby was on his wife's bucket list, but when she saw the Garden & Gun Club event at Keeneland described in the magazine, they decided they had to come. They are adding a jaunt down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to their trip.
"You have created a monster here," he told Louisville-based bartender Marie Zahn as she mixed up some 46 Furlongs for the Barrons, a drink she created incorporating Maker's 46 bourbon and apple cider.
"It's something refreshing to drink at the track that's not a julep," Zahn said. "Maker's 46 is a sweet bourbon and the apple sort of tempers that."
While the presence of the hip Southern taste-making magazine was attracting numerous out of towners to Keeneland, its annual visit was also welcomed by locals like Brandon Everett Warren, who was enjoying the libations and the warm morning on the lawn at Keeneland.
"They have found the essence of the South here," Warren said of the Keeneland event. "Lexington is a city with small town charm and big city amenities, and that really goes along with what they highlight in Garden & Gun."
For more on Garden & Gun magazine, visit gardenandgun.com.
Rich Copley: (859) 231-3217. Twitter: @copiousnotes. Blog: copiousnotes.bloginky.com.