BY MATT CRANE
The Starkville Junior Auxiliary will host its second annual Kentucky Derby Party Saturday at 4 p.m. Larry and Janet Mullins will host the event at their home located at 1903 Hwy. 12 West.
Meredith Martin, SJA chairman of events, said the organization plans for larger turnout this year than last.
“We had around 250 to 300 people the first time,” she said, “and it seemed to just be the talk of the town.”
Saturday’s events include horseshoe and croquet games, as well as a photo booth for all guests. A thoroughbred race horse and jockey will be on site for attendees to pose with, adding yet another aspect of the Kentucky Derby culture to the evening, Martin said. A part of that culture includes a flair for fashion, especially when it comes to larger-than-life hats.
“The bigger the hat, the better,” Martin said.
Guests will have the chance to vote on their favorite hats from the evening, and the top 10 winners will be featured in a hat parade.
“People went all out last year,” Martin said.
Musical entertainment will be provided by Party of Four. The local group includes musicians Jeffrey Rupp, Jim Beaty, Earl Six and Drew Dieckmann.
Dinner and drinks are included with ticket purchase, and Martin promises a nice selection of both at this year’s event. Menu items include shrimp and grits, pork tenderloin with Henry Bain sauce and miniature derby pies among many others.
Beginning at 5 p.m., guests will gather around a large projection screen to watch the derby’s 138th race unfold.
Patrons will also have the opportunity to bet on horses which are assigned to one of the service projects the SJA sponsors.Bets can go toward the SJA as a donation, Martin said.
The party honors its various sponsors who help support the 10 service projects the organization is working with next year.
SJA has raised over $30,000 this year for its major service projects, Martin said. Projects include Adopt-a-Class, Children’s Art Village, Diaper Drive, Habitat for Humanity, McKee Park Update and T.K. Martin to name a few. Martin said this year’s six top-tier sponsors include Coca-Cola bottling, W. Casey Skelton Companies, Vitality Skin and Day Spa, Dr. Andrew Martin of Martin Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Metrocast and A1 Package Store.
Foley Holditch, owner of Thyme and SJA provisional member, is in charge of decorations for the event.
“I wasn’t able to attend last year, but I am so excited for the event we have coming up,” she said. “This party is really just a way for us to say thank you to all of our sponsors.”
Members of the SJA are required to put in 60 hours of service time with the programs it sponsors, making the work the organization does extremely hands-on, Martin said. The group directly works with Oktibbeha County children, and Martin said the SJA may be the only positive influence some may see in our community.
“It’s all so extremely rewarding,” Holditch said.
Holditch recently finished her provisional work with the Reading Railroad program, a project encouraging young children to read and the value of education.
The event is for all ages and is a chance for SJA lifetime members to interact with the community and the 60 active members of the organization.
Martin said she is excited about the success of last year’s event and is excited to see what this year will bring.
“It’s a great time of year, and the Derby Party is something different for Starkville and really great place for your creative flair to shine,” Martin said.
Tickets for this year’s Kentucky Derby Party are $40 each and may be purchased from any SJA member or at the following Starkville locations: Cadence Bank at 310 East Main St. or Thyme at 402 Lampkin St. Anyone interested in attending the event may also contact Meredith Martin directly at 662-769-7910.
“If you can’t go to the actual Derby, this is the next best thing, and we hope you’ll come support us,” Martin said.