Straight Outta ‘Tucky
It has been said you can never go back home. Well, that doesn’t apply to Kentuckians let alone those who hail from Lexington. Life is a series of entrances and exits, and I am proud to say unabashedly that I never made an exit from my home and beloved state of Kentucky. The Kentucky debutante that I would like to think I still am has a love of city and state that runs as deep and wide as the rivers and pastures that grace the landscape of what I call… God’s country. Kentucky is a slice of heaven on earth.
Three weeks ago, business (I use that word loosely as it was more like pleasure) took me back to my roots, back to where I came from, back to where a part of me belongs. My clients, who are now more like friends and family and for the sake of business etiquette and amenity shall remain nameless (although here are a few clues, Sarah “Get down girl go head get down” Smile and “The Lord” not to be confused with Lord Disick of Kardashian fame although equally as handsome and bearded), allowed me the opportunity to have a little “show and tell” so to speak for a series of events that will transpire during the month of May in twenty eighteen. My visual aids were The Mansion at Marriot, the Woodford Reserve Distillery, Keeneland, Adena Springs horse farm, and a little place with twin spirals you may have heard of called Churchill Downs. Yes, the horse track that hosts a race on an annual basis that is known as the “Run for the Roses.” You know, the home of the “fastest two minutes in sports” that showcases the preeminent social event of the season, a place where the bourbon is as strong and as intoxicating as the celebrities who are in attendance and spotted in the grandstands. OK, let me cut to the chase, a place that hosts the holy grail of racing that just so happens to be the stomping grounds for TB12. That’s right… Tom Brady! You know, the guy who is the G.O.A.T (Hello, Greatest Of All Time?).
Our trek took us from venue to venue, each more breathtaking than the last. Venues that needed no sales pitch as they spoke for themselves. Awe-inspiring event spaces that quite simply speak to the soul and one’s inner being. Emotions stirring want, need, and wanderlust.
I often remind my clients that I do not throw parties. I stage marketing events. Marketing events of the experiential kind that connect clients to their customers, of which build a relationship of product to brand. My company builds sales and provides an ROI that in turn contributes to bottom line results. After all, the whole point of a corporate event is to garner sales: be it overt or covert.
Painting The Canvas
It’s easy to paint a masterpiece when you have the right subject material. Las Vegas DMC Destination Fabulous was commissioned to create four quarterly events that would in essence raise the bar and set the stage for what is to be projected as a banner sales year for our client. My stellar team and I immediately went to work and began our brainstorming sessions that would tap our collective conscious and stimulate our creative genius. The events we have created, and the venues selected, are nothing short of world class. For the sake of this penning we shall focus on the first event of Quarter 2: The Kentucky Derby.
Our event immerses C-Level executives and their premium customers into all things Kentuckian. A series of events that shall bespeak the sublime. Accommodations appointed with the accoutrements that will delight, amaze, and astound. Our host hotel just so happens to feature a mansion and pavilion in its portfolio that shall be utilized for a bourbon bruncheon, reception, dinner, coupled with a tête-à-tête with a Master Distiller, professional handicapper, blue-blooded equestrian trainer, and BRC! (That’s Kentucky’s own Billy Ray Cyrus of “Achy Breaky Heart” fame).
“CREATIVITY IS 80% BOURBON AND 20% ICE”
-Jack Doom, 1966
Our kickoff event begins with a tour of the Woodford Reserve Distillery complete with a whole hog barbeque, bluegrass band, horseshoes and corn hole! One of Kentucky’s oldest and smallest distilleries, the present-day Woodford Reserve Distillery is built on history, sitting on Kentucky’s oldest distilling site where Elijah Pepper began crafting whiskey in 1812. It was on these same hallowed grounds that years later Master Distiller James Christopher Crow perfected his whiskey-making methods, which today have become common practice, including the implementation of sour mash into fermentation.
The Distillery is home to a 500-foot-long gravity-fed barrel run, iconic copper pot stills, and 100-year-old cypress wood fermenters. The distillery also boasts one of the only heat cycled barrelhouses in the world, ensuring every drop seeps into the charred and toasted white oak, giving Woodford Reserve its color and signature flavor. Given our far-reaching associations with Woodford Reserve and their parent company Brown-Forman we were one of the first to be told of Woodford Reserve’s title sponsorship for the Kentucky Derby announced on October 25th the day before our tour of the hallowed grounds of Churchill Downs. As it has so often been said, “it’s not what you know, but who you know.” Destination Fabulous knows that “some girls are made of sugar & spice, but Kentucky girls are made of bourbon and ice.” And, I’d rather be someone’s shot of bourbon than everyone’s cup of tea!
“PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA”
No, not that Paris. I’m talking Paris, Kentucky! Our nonstop immersive experience will take our valued clients and end clients to Adena Springs; a Thoroughbred horse breeding operation owned by Frank Stronach and his family. The main farm is located in Paris, Kentucky, with satellite locations in Florida and Ontario, Canada. Adena Springs has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Breeder eight times, one of which was Stronach winning the award in his own name. Adena Springs has won the Canadian Sovereign Award for Outstanding Breeder six times, plus four earlier wins under Stronach’s own name. Just how nice is this farm you ask? Well, I’d give up Casa de Maguire for a stable any day of the week. Adena Springs is the Taj Mahal of horse farms. After all, “a bad day in Paris is still better than a good day anywhere else.”
TAP, TAPIT, & TAPOUT
To better acquaint all parties with horse racing and all things associated with the “sport of kings” our site inspection led us to Keeneland. Located in the heart of Kentucky’s famed Bluegrass region, Keeneland plays an important role in both Thoroughbred racing and breeding. Keeneland is unique in that it is both a Thoroughbred race track and an auction company. Our arrival at the grounds included the company of none other than Destination Fabulous’ illustrious Senior Vice President, Trent Allen Parks. Anyone who knows Trent Allen Parks – affectionately known as TAP (The nickname you ask? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother story…) – knows that once he graces one with an appearance the show begins. The sea parts, women swoon, and in this case all bets are off. Here’s a descriptor that best befits his aura and magnanimous personality… Warren Beatty meets Robert Redford meets Rob Lowe, with a little of Charlie Sheen’s Two and a Half Men character, Charlie Harper, sprinkled in. I know, it’s a lot (truth be told he knows it too).
There was no need to alert the media as he announced his own arrival and immediately made his presence known to one and all. Clearly, the “Vegas” guy’s entrance was noted by the old guard and old money alike and then we were off and running at the races!
Here’s the inside scoop, TAP is not a gambler. A player, yes. A degenerate gambler, no. In fact, he inquired about some inside info upon entering the track grounds and was given the following tip: race 6, horse 4, across the board. The handicapper’s consensus left him a bit confused and befuddled, but nonetheless he went immediately to the window where upon he placed his bet assertively not knowing what he was really doing. The bourbon flowed, and new friends and acquaintances were made as TAP proudly boasted his choice and bet to one and all. Most thought he was an owner, others thought a “high roller” from Vegas who was an industry insider; a man in the know ready to collect the dough. Regardless, none of their thoughts could have been further from the truth as TAP was a first timer, a green virgin, a newbie have you to the sport. Soon enough the gates were rolled out and the horses were loaded including #4… Eight Town. The gates opened and the race began, as TAP & Co. yelled and screamed in exaltation. The homestretch was upon us before we knew what hit us, and sure enough like a scene from a movie, Eight Town was neck and neck for first place. Shocking but true. Even more shocking, the horse won! As God as my witness, the audience exploded as we all looked at each other in total disbelief at what had just happened. TAP, you ask? Well, he was off and running along the rail to the winner’s circle reminding us all of a line from a Carly Simon song… “And your horse, naturally, won.”
An American Icon: Churchill Downs
It all started with a horse race for 3-year-old Thoroughbreds on a Saturday in May more than a century ago. And since that first Kentucky Derby in 1875, Churchill Downs has been committed to offering its customers the very best in racing, gaming and entertainment.
Today, Churchill Downs Racetrack is owned and operated by Churchill Downs Incorporated. Churchill Downs currently holds the record for the longest-running, continuous sporting event in the United States. The track’s inaugural meet reached nearly 10,000 spectators, unknowingly initiating an annual ritual that is now universally recognized bringing in record-breaking crowds of more than 170,000.
As for that horse race in May… it’s still known as the “Greatest Two Minutes in Sports” and is only getting bigger and better with age. Over the past three years, we’ve grown our company and its value to our customers while keeping focus on what’s at the very heart of the Destination Fabulous brand: creating extraordinary experiences for our customers. The Kentucky Derby is a great chapter of our story, and we can’t wait to see what happens next!
As I prepared for my departure from Lexington I caught a glimpse of a young girl in a mirror who was brought back to the city she wanted so badly to conquer as a child. Upon a second glance I saw a woman who had lived life, realized her dreams, and had finally come home. Kentucky woman, she shines her own kind of light.
You’re So Vain lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC
“Kentucky Woman” Writer(s): Neil Diamond
Jake “The Lord” Beyhal & simantel.com