YORK, Pa. —

While the Kentucky Derby is held in reverence in some parts of the country — well, Kentucky — in York County, it’s an excuse to party and maybe watch some 3-year-old horses cover a mile and a quarter in about two minutes.

Sure, you could go to Penn National’s off-track wagering parlor on Route 30 and join the revelry.

Or, you DIY.

That’s what Amanda Gearhart, a 30-year-old York woman, and her friends do every year.

The party is a chance to get together with friends and watch a sporting event. Unlike other sporting events, there are certain traditions to holding a Kentucky Derby party, she said. The Super Bowl, the NBA Finals, the Final Four — they don’t come with the baggage that comes with the crown jewel of horse racing’s triple crown.

Everybody gets dressed up, she said, and the women wear fancy hats, as tradition dictates. The location rotates among her friends’ homes. They have food — southern food, like barbecue, and, this year, as a nod to Cinco de Mayo, some Latino cuisine — and, of course, they have mint juleps.

“It’s an excuse to have a party, mostly,” Gearhart said.

Preparations begin during the week. Food is prepared. Ingredients for the mint juleps are readied. And hats are either purchased or made. There is a kind of informal competition to see who can produce the fanciest, or most outrageous, hats.

Gearhart makes her own hats. This year, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, she went with a Mexican theme, her hat covered with tiny sombreros, a kind of hats-on-a-hat theme.

She and her friends will make bets among themselves on the race — nothing huge, just enough to make it interesting. This year, Gearhart says she likes Gemologist at 7-1 and Daddy Long Legs, a 30-1 shot.

She has never been to legendary Churchill Downs.

“It’s on my bucket list,” she said.

To watch

What: the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby

When: TV pre-race coverage begins on NBC at 4 p.m. Saturday; race show, 5 p.m.; post time, 6:24 p.m.

The field: 20 horses entered

Favorite: Union Rags, at 6-1 Friday

Long-shot: Prospective at 69-1

Amanda Gearhart’s mint julep recipe

The traditional libation of the Kentucky Derby is pretty simple to make, but there are variations. Here is Amanda Gearhart’s version:

First, make a simple syrup by heating equal parts sugar and water in a pan. While it’s still hot, add mint leaves and let steep to infuse the syrup.

Then, mix two parts syrup and one part bourbon in a glass with lots of crushed ice.

Garnish with a sprig of mint.

Source : Locals throw traditional Kentucky Derby party – Chicago Tribune