By Carrie Vittitoe

 These women have learned how to move through the work day without letting stress overwhelm them.
Photo by Marvin Young

I think of the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) in the same way my husband and children think of dinner, toilet paper in the hall closet, and laundry: it just magically happens. But the reality is that the weeks of Derby Festival leading up to the greatest two minutes in sports are a year-long effort that involves considerable time, energy, and oodles of….

…organizational stress.

The women behind the Kentucky Derby Festival are many and have various roles, but they have all learned coping skills to help them push through crunch time without losing their minds.

Jayme Perez, sponsorship sales manager, has only been with KDF since October, but she’ll be using music as her go-to stress relief. “I’m from Miami, so I love Pitbull and Bruno Mars,” she says. And she’ll take nearly any Cuban or salsa music. She cranks it up while spinning or driving to the office. (Interesting sidenote: Jayme’s husband is named Armando Perez, which is Pitbull’s real name.)

Jennifer Morgan, merchandising manager, also uses music in her search for stress relief. “When my only time away from people is in my vehicle on my way to an event, I like to roll the windows down, turn the radio up and sing,” she says. Her mood determines the playlist, but she says Blake Shelton and Florida Georgia Line are great to sing along with.

Cynthia Jackson, a KDF customer service representative who has been with the Festival since 2001, listens to the comedy channel The Foxxhole on Sirius XM radio in the car on her drive home, which provides her with a good laugh and helps her decompress. Another way she relaxes is by playing bingo with her sisters (the Old Grandmothers, as she calls them) on Saturday afternoons.

Aimee Boyd, VP communications, turns to horses for stress relief. Her parents own a farm in the country and keep 12 horses. One named Jackrabbit Aimee bought right out of high school. “It is therapeutic to brush and pet them, and just being in that environment is very soothing,” Aimee says.

Anna Miller, event manager, uses cleaning to help her de-stress. She will take a break to straighten up around her workspace. “There are six event managers and interns on one end of the building, and we come and go at all hours of the day and night during Festival,” she says. A large conference table becomes a dumping ground for supplies when they don’t have the time or energy for clean-up after an event. “Sometimes I need to walk away from my desk to clear my head, and I’ll take 20 minutes to straighten up the common event area,” Anna says. “Just
                                     putting everything away helps to re-energize me.”

                                     Here are more tried-and-true stress-busting tips from some of the other
                                     women behind the scenes of the Kentucky Derby Festival:

“I send myself emails in the middle of the night so I don’t lie there and think about what I need to do.” — Deja Lawson, race director/event manager

“When I get home late at night, there is always a glass of wine waiting for me and my sweet dog, Bella.” — Judy Weightman, merchandising manager

“Thanking God for things helps me focus on what really matters instead of things that could go wrong.” — Chelsey Adkinson, sponsorship sales manager

“My husband and I are lucky enough to have a date night every Friday [that] offers wonderful relief and a little escape.” — Tricia Siegwald, director of event production and volunteers

“What seems to be working lately is making it a priority to unplug.” — Shanna Ward, event manager (read more about her here)

“I try to treat myself to retail therapy, a nice glass of wine, and bubble baths when I get the chance, which isn’t often!” — Jessica Polio, sponsorship sales manager

“I play poker with a group of friends once a week.” — Bridget Sherrill, VP of merchandising

“To the dismay of my husband, online shopping has been known to relieve some of my angst.” — April Zik, director of sponsorship sales

“When I have a free moment, I try to spend as much time as I can with my nephews. Work is important, but so is family, so I try to carve out some time for them.” — Stacey Robinson, executive VP/chief of staff

“Staying in with some Pinot and binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy with my dogs takes my mind off the Derby madness happening around me.” — Shaina Wagner, ticket and promotions manager

“The best way to cope with this stress is to actually get my family involved as much as I can with my job. I try to create traditions with each (family member) so they also get to enjoy my job as much as I do.” — Dodie Howlett, director of advertising and promotions