Kentucky Derby

Infield: The only place to live on Derby Day

INFIELD — Once, during World War I, there were potatoes planted here. People needed to eat.

Apparently, that was not a problem Saturday, as you could get pizza and turkey legs and fried anything, hamburgers and pepperoni and turkey sandwiches, Cheez-Its and beef jerky if you asked certain people nicely.

You could also find alcoholic beverages in this nice town, but only after 8 a.m., which was a problem for a few people who came to find real estate here because they drank heavily before they ran in to build their nice temporary ramshackle blue tarp homes.

This was not a hard place to find as far as Kentucky towns go, since it's right where it's supposed to be (hint: in-field), though the acreage available for quick nabbage was shrinking before any of the day's claimants even have a chance to do any claiming, what with the ravines down the middle of the town swelling to moat-like proportions, and not in a good way, what with all that sucking mud working against home-building.

Still, it had its charms. This is, after all, the only town in the Commonwealth where claimants — for the price of $40 and some adrenaline — can snap up some choice real-estate for 12 hours and plop whatever they can haul in, provided it's not alcoholic, and get neighborly. If they are lucky, they can back their property up to some nice land where people have horses who ride through on a semi-regular basis.

It is not an unusual concept, really. There are summer homes in Cape Cod and winter homes in Florida.

"This is the it," says Jim Diehl, 21, from Detroit, referring to the only place to live on the first Saturday in May.

The mayor of Infield, Dave Humes, explains that "we built this city on rock and roll."

Humes, who can't exactly remember how he got elected, has held the position for 33 years. He thinks that maybe no one else wants the job because it usually involves "a lot of julep tasting and some temporary marriage annulling."

Of late, with the new high-rise, high-rent development in the area (sponsored by Bacardi), he had heard some grumbling within his town, but "you have to have growth," says Humes, who is a "UPS box guy from Moline, Illinois," in his other 364-days life.

You don't have to have growth in this town, say the boys over at the Bob Baffert shrine. Jim Dotson, Tim Walsh and Jim Downing, all of St. Louis, say they got moved (eminent domain) from their old favorite spot to a new less prime spot in town because of the high-rent people's needs.

Dotson says the boys just picked up their Baffert bobblehead, their horse doll and their flamingo statue and left nice-like because this is a nice place. (The flamingo stayed home this year because of the rain.)

It's not like they mind commerce, after all. There's plenty here for a town that folds up 12 hours after it opens. An informal count put the 100 portable restrooms at slightly more than the number of ATMs and Daq' N 'Rita huts, and also military police and firefighters ready to jump in to help the lady mud-wrestlers who got hurt scuffling down there by the third turn.

The town, noted for its diversity, also has a designated Indian and Cowboy.

The Cowboy, Jesse Maund, 27, from Pittsburgh, says "we might get here one day a year but we live Derby year round."

The Indian, Josh Cunningham, 30, also from Pittsburgh, wants you to know he's married.

And he wants you to know all are welcome any time. He's a high school librarian in real life.

This is a town that, for the record, doesn't need more librarians.

But it is a village that can always make room for more idiots.

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