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Opening Night at Churchill Downs brings out 'style under the stars' for beginning of spring meet

For first-timers and Derby faithfuls alike, it's all a part of the fun cheering on those horses barreling to the finish line.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — From the paddock to the grand stands the energy inside Churchill Downs is electric to say the least with people from all over the country here to celebrate the start to Derby season.

It's also clear that Louisvillians are ready to get back to the traditions they know and love.

Style.

"It's the fashion, the fascinators, things like that," Carina Yarbrough of Nashville said.

Spirits.

"Definitely the Lily, definitely the Lily," Louisville native Angela Smith said.

And of course, horses.

For first-timers and Derby faithful alike, it's all a part of the fun cheering on those horses barreling to the finish line.

With many winning suits, dresses and hats.

"I think that's one of the highlights of the derby," Smith said.

Opening night this year is proving to be a special one after two years of limitations.

"COVID I think really stopped the entertainment for people and so, so many people are not only happy about Derby but Derby after COVID," Yarbrough said.

The sense of community is what many say they've missed.

"It's a wonderful feeling and we are glad for all of the people who might be coming here over the next couple of days to experience it with us," Louisville native Cindy Perry said.

Opening night serves as a warm up to Derby weekend.

Giving first-timers like Yarbrough a taste of the action.

"So, when I finally got tickets to come to this event, I was like yes I want to experience the real thing about Derby," she said.

And for Derby veterans, well they're sharing the secret recipe for a successful week.

"Let's bet some horses, let's win some money, drink a mint julep or two. Place a wager or two and let's have a good time," Ben Wallace said.

Kentucky Derby 148 takes place on May 7.

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