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By Alyssa Pereira

Since its inauguration in 1875, the Kentucky Derby has grown to be far more than just one really big horse race. The annual event has become a cultural spectacle, speckled with ladies in wild hats, men in suits and ties, and sweet mint juleps in dozens of copper cups.

It’s a tradition, and it’s one that we’re going to take part in, dammit, even if we’re not in Kentucky.

This year, San Francisco is really getting in on the action. There are a flurry of events happening in the city (and the East Bay) for fans of the races wanting to don their floppy hats and sip on sweet tea.

The high brow:

Third Annual Run for the Roses Kentucky Derby Party

This one is fancy, so hopefully you’ve got your alligator boots shined and your haberdashery game on point. “Guests will participate in a first class viewing of one of the longest running and most popular sporting events while drinking Mint Juleps and savoring traditional southern food,” the description reads. “Enjoy a hosted bar while participating in sporting lawn games, auction, and prize raffle — all while enjoying views of the San Francisco Bay.” Prizes will be given to those dressed the swankiest, but it’s not just all fun and games. The event organizers, the Guardsmen, note that “approximately 90 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to support programs for kids.” Presumably, that means with  your $125-$150 donation, a whole lot of it is going to a good cause.

Comstock Saloon’s Kentucky Derby Party

Comstock Saloon in North Beach has been slinging craft cocktails for several years now, and this Saturday, they’ll be doing it to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Every $10 donated at the door will go directly to the charity, and food and drink specials will be served in theme with the day’s event. Sip on Bulleit Mint Juleps and Deep Southside Cocktails, all offered up for $6 each — roughly half the cost of their normal cocktails. Prizes will also be given out here for “Best Hat” and “Dandiest Fellow” so come dressed to kill.

The low brow:

The Annual North Beach Kentucky Derby Block Party

North Beach will throw a little block party in honor of the day’s festivities, and encourages visitors to come dressed in “your finest racing gear — seersucker suit, pastel color party dress, fabulous feather fascinator and Goorin Bros hat — for an afternoon of festive fun!” The block party charges $30 for entry, but includes a BBQ meal, two signature cocktails per person, and a whole lot of games (with prizes).

Get Down And Derby At Madrone Art Bar

This one is simple: show up in your best derby costume and drink some juleps!

Kentucky Derby Party And Hat Contest At Golden Gate Fields

How can we not mention the Bay’s mainstay when it comes to horse racing? Place official bets, sip on cocktails, and participate in the Derby’s annual Run For The Roses Hat Contest, all for $6 (kids are free). This competition is no joke either. Categories include “Funniest & Most Outrageous,” “Best Racing Theme,” and “Most Glamorous” and winners will win cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. All participants need to do is enter by 1:30 pm on the day of the race (May 2). Pro tip: those who don’t want to drive can take BART to North Berkeley and take the free shuttle to the Fields.

The bizarre brow:

The Annual San Francisco Unicorn March

Well, we don’t really know what to make of this one. It’s not a “Kentucky Derby” event per se, but it is essentially a running of the horses (if you consider people dressed like unicorns “horses”), so we’re going to go ahead and include it. The parade (stampede?) costs $10 per person and sends users on a wild dash around Nob Hill and Civic Center. Happy racing! Huzzah!


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