The Big Blue Nation is about to hit a big blue waxy bottleneck.
Only 1,200 fans will be allowed to line up at 6:30 a.m. Friday, April 9, at Keeneland to each get one commemorative bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon signed by University of Kentucky men's basketball Coach John Calipari.
In anticipation of the fervor that UK basketball fans might bring to the occasion, the track has come up with a special process this year for its annual bottle signing tied to the Maker's Mark Mile race.
The first 1,200 fans who show up for a special drawing at Keene Barn and Entertainment Center on Tuesday, April 6 will get a shot to get their bottle signed by Calipari.
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That's right — three days in advance.
"With the popularity of Coach Cal, the enthusiasm of the Big Blue Nation — and, understandably, the coach's limited time to sign during the recruiting season — we felt it was important to create a process that made it as fair and reasonable as possible for everyone involved, while also creating a fun, festive atmosphere," said Keeneland President and CEO Nick Nicholson.
Keeneland already has contacted the city about having extra police to direct traffic.
Also complicating the matter, Calipari can be there for only two hours.
"We don't want to take anything away from recruiting," said Julie Balog, a Keeneland spokeswoman.
So here's how it will work:
■ On April 2, some 24,000 blue bottles of Marker's Mark with Calipari's likeness will go on sale at a suggested retail price of $49.99.
■ At 6 p.m. April 6, Keeneland security will begin letting cars into Gate 1 on Versailles Road, giving out a maximum of four tickets per car (each ticket recipient must be 21 or older); the first 1,200 fans can enter the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center for a pep rally.
■ At 11 p.m. that night Keeneland will randomly draw a number to determine who will be first in line for the signing.
■ Three days later, at 6:30 a.m. April 9, those 1,200 ticketholders can begin lining up — in order — with one bottle apiece.
■ From 8 to 10 a.m., Calipari (along with Nicholson and Marker's Mark President Bill Samuels Jr.) will sign bottles.
The Maker's Mark Mile goes off that afternoon, so if you made it through the bottleneck to get your bottle signed, get a bet down because it's your lucky day.
For more information about the ticket draw and the bottle signing, visit www.keeneland.com.