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'Fairy-tale ending': Businesses, community celebrates success of 148th Kentucky Derby

After the last two years, the hope for many was to have a Derby that felt normal again. Locals say those expectations were met, and in many ways, exceeded.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — From the return of full-capacity attendance to the biggest upset victory in more than a century, many are calling the 148th Kentucky Derby a success in more ways than one.

"This is a story that is really having a fairy-tale ending. We're so happy for Rich Strike," said Kaitlynn West, communications director for the Kentucky Derby Museum.

The Kentucky Derby Museum is celebrating a historic weekend on the track, one that West said makes telling the story that much more rewarding. West said the museum has seen crowds like 2019 again, and despite tourists now flying out in bunches, the demand will continue to be there after such a captivating finish.

"People maybe get the Derby blues right after the race, [as] all the excitement is kind of winding down, but we keep that excitement going every single day," she said. "We'll continue to tell this story all year long. We've got a few long weeks and months ahead of us to get everything ready to show off this win and tell the public who couldn't be here on Derby day."

A return to full demand during Derby week paid dividends for businesses too.

NuLu's locally-owned Mamili, which operates alongside sister store Mad Hatter 502 next door, brought in its highest Derby sales to date. Owner Melissa Huff designs many hats and fascinators herself. She said the rush made for a busy few weeks but called it a welcomed sight.

"It was just huge, compared to 2021," Huff said. "We're downtown, so we get a lot of out-of-towners, and they're happy and they're shopping, and it's just a wonderful feeling."

Huff said sales of Derby-styled hats do slow down a bit after Derby, when their focus shifts more to their other products. But she says hat sales do pick up again for the Breeders' Cup.

Huff also said her preparations for next year's Derby starts fairly soon.

"I've already put in orders for some things," she said. "In a couple weeks, I'll start making stuff for next year."

As for the Kentucky Derby Museum, West said the Winner's Circle inside should be updated in the weeks to come, of course depicting Rich Strike and jockey Sonny Leon.

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