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Spirit Ride’s 2nd Annual Kentucky Derby Fundraiser on May 2 Was a Smash Success

From left to right: John and Faye Cooper, Suzie and Noyse Long, Karen and Dave Robertson, Robin and Larry Byerly. Photo by Cindy McEnery

Spirit Ride’s 2nd Annual Kentucky Derby Fundraiser on May 2 was a smash success! Attendees streamed in the entrance, anxious to see all that the evening had to offer. Held at the beautiful Rising Star Equestrian Center in Boone, NC, people came from near and far to enjoy the fundraiser again this year. Smiles all-around underlined the energy and excitement this event generated.

Wendy Hawk, a longtime Spirit Ride supporter shared, “The derby party was incredible. Seeing so many people come out to support an organization designed to help children warmed my heart. It is evidence of how important this organization has become to the people in this area of North Carolina and that when someone has a dream to do good for others, it is a dream worth investing in.”

The party was beyond fashion-forward and attire was worthy of the runway. Ladies donned beautifully-designed hats and intricate fascinators. Their fancy dresses were the prettiest this side of Churchill Downs! Gentlemen sported bowties, classic seersucker plaid sport coats and colorful pocket squares. “Some of the guests have been planning their derby outfits since last year,” says Patty Adams, Executive Director of Spirit Ride. Adams continues, “It’s wonderful to see the excitement that this event has generated in only its second year. We simply can’t wait to see what next year brings.”

Red carpet photography by Cindy McEnery had a very busy set, prompting lots of camaraderie and laughter amid poses to capture the evening’s flair.

Entertainment was non-stop with the addition of a full-blown live band this year. The Rockabillys Band, of Newland, played their hearts out all night while revelers danced and enjoyed the upbeat music and atmosphere. 

Katie Mahaffey, owner of KTLeigh’s Boutique in Boone, celebrated her upcoming wedding at the derby with friends (from left to right), Melissa Meares, Jennie Mahaffey, (Katie), Kendra Miller, Addison Hinke, and Gracie Robertson. Photo by Cindy McEnery

Guests raved about the food and were impressed by the authenticity of the traditional derby selections. Gadabouts Catering provided Bourbon Meatballs, Kentucky Hot Brown sliders, Chicken and Waffle bites, Shrimp and Grits, and of course, the traditional drink of the derby – Mint Juleps! 

Appalachian Mountain Brewery offered the popular Blonde Ale, and the Banner Elk Winery contributed their Banner Elk Red and White wines. There was even a Bourbon Tasting Experience in the upstairs lounge which was undoubtedly a popular spot! The Beech Mountain Bourbon Society provided the libation and expertise for this fun, educational experience.

Jessica Lidh, a home baker and Spirit Ride mom, created an artistic assortment of derby inspired cakes made with locally-sourced ingredients.

Artist John Pipes. Photo by Cindy McEnery

The cuisine and drink were not only top-notch, but also caring examples of the High Country’s willingness to support local causes.

Boone-based nationally acclaimed artist, John Pipes, displayed his talent while painting live throughout the evening. His art was up for bids, adding to the gallery of silent auction and raffle items. The enviable list of donated pieces was lengthy and varied. Displayed throughout the venue, guests could stroll around and view what they would like to bid on and win. Offerings included bed and breakfast stays, restaurant gift cards, jewelry, sports memorabilia, theater tickets, riding lessons, wildlife prints, ceramic art, gourmet cakes, housekeeping services… gift baskets… on and on!

Derby Dollars were used for auction/raffle currency, along with chance tickets for the winning horse. New this year was a VIP seating area in front of the festivities for special patrons and donors.

A favorite of many was the “Best Hat” and “Best Dressed Couple” contests emceed by SRTC’s president, Craig Adams. Winners of the popular contest received Publix Gift cards as their prize.

A horse checking out the silent auction items. Photo by Cindy McEnery

The fun didn’t stop when the party ended – guests were treated to gift bags sponsored by Blackberry Creek Mattress Company. These ‘swag bags’ were filled with goodies from Blackberry Creek, Stick Boy Bread Company, Swarovski Optik, and Highlands Community Bank.

One guest commented, “Between the Door Prizes, the great deals in the Auction, and the Swag Bags…I feel like I was the winner of the Derby! But, knowing that we were helping such a good cause was the best win of all!” Needless to say, there was plenty of heartfelt emotion for the families and children who benefit from Spirit Ride.

Be sure to save the date for the 3rd Annual Kentucky Derby Fundraiser for Spirit Ride which will take place on May 2, 2020.

Therapeutic Riding involves the use of horses and equine-assisted activities in an effort to achieve goals that enhance physical, emotional, social, cognitive, behavioral and educational skills for people with special needs. Spirit Ride is committed to providing private Therapeutic Riding sessions free of charge to all accepted clients. Through working with the client’s Therapy Team (Educators, Community Professionals and Parents/Guardians) they are able to create an ideal environment relating to the individual client’s specific needs. They give their undivided attention to the client and his/her equine partner for the entire duration of each session. This provides an opportunity to foster learning and personal growth (self-esteem, boundary setting, appropriate social interaction, as well as any cognitive or physical goals). They serve children with special needs – and affect families who need special care.” To learn more about Spirit Ride, please visit www.SpiritRideNC.org.