An American tradition since 1875, the annual Kentucky Derby is a high-profile horse-racing event in Louisville, Ky., and the first installment of the U.S. Triple Crown -- the equine equivalent of the Super Bowl, World Series and NBA Finals. But here in Los Angeles, more than 2,000 miles from the Churchill Downs racetrack, it's an excuse to drink mint juleps and wear crazy hats.
To celebrate the 100-plus years of horse-racing history, the Los Angeles Athletic Club hosted its second annual Kentucky Derby Viewing Party, featuring Southern-inspired cuisine, side bets and specialty whiskey-based cocktails by Marcos Tello.
Multiple monitors screened the Kentucky Derby live, but it's not like anyone was really watching the so-called "most important two minutes in sports history," because people were too busy checking out the hats -- like these fancy numbers from the Pooka Queen pop-up hat shop.
Accessories and jewelry designer Brianna Kenyon of Pooka Queen was excited to showcase her one-of-a-kind creations at the event, where hatless ladies scrambled to pick up a piece of headwear as a last-minute display of classic Southern style.
Tina was on the lookout for a Kentucky Derby party so she could wear this outrageous vertical hat with a taxidermied bird, designed by modern-day milliner Arturo Rios.
"I have friends here at a wedding," said Alyssa Evans, wearing another Arturo Rios creation. "We were looking around for a Derby party, so we thought we'd swing by. And I love a good fascinator." Good thing she doesn't have any cats.
Hats weren't the only form of entertainment at the Kentucky Derby Viewing Party. L.A.-based gypsy jazz quartet Bastards of Belleville banged out 1930s bluegrass music, providing down-home, toe-tapping tunes throughout the afternoon.
J'mill just purchased her pink feathered vintage hat before coming to the party with friends. Like many other ladies, she was too busy looking fabulous to pay attention to the races on TV.
The best-dressed man at the Kentucky Derby Viewing Party turned out to be Sonny, the organizer of the event. "We did this last year and it was a success, so we thought we'd do it again," he said. "People seemed interested in watching the Kentucky Derby, and having an old-school place to watch it in."
And he's right -- you'd be hard-pressed to find a more appropriate venue than the old-timey Los Angeles Athletic Club. Built in 1912, the 12-story building is where athletes trained for the 1932 Summer Olympics, and it's home to the first above-ground swimming pool in Southern California. These days, it's an upscale gym, bar, hotel and of course, L.A.'s best venue to watch the Kentucky Derby -- and wear crazy hats.