By Mary Ellen Bianco

Twelve years ago, we hit the jackpot during the Kentucky Derby Festival. A friend with the Coast Guard brought our family onboard a boat to watch Thunder Over Louisville. That was also the year my husband Joe and I rode to the Kentucky Derby in a limousine. We watched Smarty Jones win in a friend’s suite at the finish line! Since then, we’ve been back to Thunder, visited the Churchill Downs backside during Derby week, and attended other festival events.

What’s on your list of Derby events to attend this year? If you need some help, here are a few suggestions.

If you need an Oaks or Derby hat, go to the Big Brims and Fancy Trims Annual Hat Sample Sale at the Kentucky Derby Museum on April 7, 4-7pm.

More than 200 Derby hats will be available along with the Kentucky Derby Museum 2016 hat collection. No sample hat will be priced at more than $75 and many will be as low as $29.99.

Ticket prices vary by entry time:
4-5pm: $15
5-7pm: $10 ($5 for Derby Museum members)

What else you’ll find: free parking, two complimentary glasses of wine and hors d’oeuvres, cash bar, live music, and local boutiques and stylists including Alissa Hicks of Today’s Woman, Talbots, Primp Boutique, and Blush Boutique.

“I’m here in the museum during most of the KDF events, but every day of Derby week, I come in extra early to sit trackside and watch the morning training.” — Katie Stephenson, director of retail operations, Kentucky Derby Museum

If you enjoy running, sign up for the 2016 Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon on April 30 starting at 7:30am.

Registration is guaranteed only to the first 18,000 runners.

Individual race deadline has passed, but Team race fees are from $300 to $475; registration ends April 25.
“It’s become an annual tradition for me. The crowd is supportive and this year I’m going to thank someone for being there. Having my mom waiting at the end of the race is always great. Tips for runners: get there early and stop at every water station.” — Amanda Moore, who is running in her second marathon and has completed three miniMarathons.

If you have children or grandchildren, attend the Fillies, Inc. Children’s Tea with the Kentucky Derby Festival Princesses at The Crowne Plaza Hotel on May 1 at 1pm.

Children accompanied by an adult are encouraged to dress like a prince or princess to meet the 2016 Derby Princesses. Each child receives a goody bag and a walk down The Fillies, Inc.’s Princess runway.

Tickets are $35 for ages 4 and up and adults. This includes light snacks, juice, or tea. Sales end April 22.

If you want to attend one of the more than 30 KDF events and concerts, purchase a 2016 Pegasus Pin.

Pins are $5 in advance, $7 at events. To be eligible to win weekly prizes, register your pin using the KDF app or website. If you get a gold pin, you can enter a drawing to win a 2016 Honda CRV.

My daughter, Laura Bianco, is planning to buy a few Pegasus Pins this year — maybe she’ll win a new car, which would make her family very happy.

“I had a gold pin when I was in high school, and I got a lot of great gifts. It was exciting to enter the grand prize drawing, even if I didn’t win!”