This weekend marks the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby - a tradition that brings out old and young, rich and poor, celebrities and citizens from all areas of the state and the world to Churchill Downs each year.

For one family, attending the Kentucky Derby is a tradition - one that solidifies family outings with the rich flavor of their homeland.

The Joe and Joyce Cummins family have been attending the Run for the Roses in Louisville for many years and this year will log in 15 consecutive years at the horse race known around the world. It all began with her father-in-law, years ago.

"My father-in-law has been going to the Derby for 20 or 25 years," said Joyce, who was raised in Laurel County but now resides in Mt. Vernon. "He loves the Derby, horses and the entire culture of Kentucky. He used to rent a limo and took the whole family."

Over the past several years, however, Cummins and her husband have also been accompanied by their daughters and sons-in-law, having rented an RV for their yearly adventure.

"My in-laws, my sister-in-law and now my daughters and their husbands go," she said. "My father-in-law is 85 now and this is the first year he hasn't been able to go. We usually have two boxes and there were at least 12 of us."

Cummins, the former Joyce Taylor of London, said the atmosphere of the Kentucky Derby is contagious and she and her family are one of many who dress up for the occasion.

"I just enjoy the whole day - dressing up and experiencing what Kentucky is all about," she said. "Judy House (Paperdolls) helps us every year with getting the dress and hats to go. One year I remember we were on the paddock and someone commented about our outfits and asked where we got them. I told her we got them in London, and she was so impressed that we'd gone to London, England to get our hats! I had to tell her London was a town just a distance down the road!"

But outside events are often a challenge, especially in Kentucky, as Cummins noted.

"Last year it rained - a deluge," she said. "In fact, the last Derby that it didn't rain was in 2015," she said. "You can't take umbrellas in so you just get rained on."

The Cummins family is fortunate enough to have seats near the finish line, however, although the family has had tours of the entire facility in the past.

"We got to go up to Millionaire's Row - before everybody got there, as part of the Kentucky State Police tour," she said. "And we've been to the top where you can look down and see the infield. We've seen a lot of stars and celebrities at the Derby."

Although Cummins said she is not a big bettor on the races, she does occasionally place a bet.

"We study the horses and see which horse to put our money on," she said. "But it's the atmosphere for me. I'll never forget the first time I went to the Derby. I was in awe and my eyes were as big as saucers - the sights, smells, scenery, the people. Just seeing all the different hats and how people are dressed."

Although Saturday will be the first Kentucky Derby in which Cummins' in-laws will not be present in many years, Cummins still looks forward to the event as a family outing.

"This is down time for us," she explained. "We enjoy being together as a family and enjoy the tradition. There's not a better way to celebrate Kentucky than being at the Derby."

React to this story:


Recommended for you