On his first Derby Day as governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin started an exciting race in Frankfort before heading to the big one at Churchill Downs.
Shortly after 9 a.m. on Broadway in downtown Frankfort, Bevin held up high in his right hand a horn to begin the local YMCA’s free “Derby Dash,” four different run/walk races for kids 2 to 12.
“On your mark, get set, run like a race horse, go,” shouted the beaming governor to a group of anxious youngsters as if it were the most important race in the world.
It was two big races in one day for Bevin to participate in — the Derby Dash in the annual Derby Celebration in the Capital City and later the Kentucky Derby trophy presentation in Winner’s Circle at the Louisville racetrack.
Never miss a local story.
The day began early for Bevin, who revealed on Inauguration Day last December that he stays up late.
He said he went to bed “sometime this morning” after he and first lady Glenna Bevin hosted the Governor’s Derby Eve Gala at the Governor’s Mansion on Friday night and he arose for Derby Day “sometime this morning.”
Besides kicking off the children’s races in downtown Frankfort in the morning, Bevin walked among the crowd, stopping often to take his trademark selfies with various people.
Lissa Caldwell of Frankfort got a selfie with the governor.
“My daughter, Riley, got one with him on Inauguration Day, so I thought it would be nice to show her that I got one with the governor.”
On the grounds of the old Capitol, Bevin posed with “Southern Belles” Alexis Bridgewaters and Caitlin Pendygraft, both of Mercer County, as onlookers took their photos.
Most of his day was scheduled to promote economic development in Kentucky.
“We will be trying to put a good foot forward,” he said. “A lot of my day will be going from seat to seat, box to box, suite to suite, welcoming people here.”
The big spotlight on him was to occur at 6:45 p.m. — the time to present the trophy to the winners of the Kentucky Derby on national television.
He has been practicing the pronunciation of the names of the horses and jockeys, he said.
The new governor seemed to soak in the excitement of the day. He was asked if he’d thought about reviving the old Kentucky Derby Breakfast held on the Capitol grounds on the morning of the first Saturday in May.
The free Derby breakfast that Gov. A.B. “Happy” Chandler started as a private get-together for a few friends in the 1930s eventually turned into a public spectacle that for years attracted about 15,000 guests for a free country ham breakfast near the Capitol.
Under the previous governor, Steve Beshear, the event became more of a street fair in downtown Frankfort. He cited escalating costs as the reason to downsize the breakfast.
Consequently, the crowds have dwindled in recent years from thousands to hundreds.
Bevin said he and his staff pondered how to stage what is now called “Derby Celebration.”
“We were torn with that. Bring it back to the Capitol. Keep it downtown, or both.”
He consulted with Frankfort leaders, merchants and residents and “the idea was to keep it downtown. It is a beautiful setting,” he said.
The only subject Bevin shied away from was his personal choice to win the 142nd annual Kentucky Derby.
Like a shrewd politician, he said, “It’s like UK and U of L. You just can’t go there when you are governor.”