Lines short, as Derby security runs like well-oiled machine
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Spectators of the 139th Kentucky Derby were greeted at the gate of Churchill Downs by some of the 1,200 federal, state and local security personnel from more than 40 different agencies.
At the first checkpoint, Fort Knox soldiers rooted through bags. Then Derby-goers are ushered on to a wand search by Kentucky National Guard members. And it appears people "got the memo" about the new additions to this year's list of banned items -- cans, coolers, camcorders and larger purses -- because the biggest thing being confiscated was something that's been prohibited for years: umbrellas. Although, that wasn't necessarily because people were unaware.
Barb Soemann and Irene Myers from Lockport, N. Y., say they knew they were going to have to give up their umbrellas at the gate.
"It's a sacrifice to come here to the Derby," Myers said. "It's a great event."
Security was intensified this year because of the recent Boston Marathon bombings. All items were given a closer look. Virtually everyone got a wand search. So, the track says, the new bans were simply in the interest of speed.
"If you're stopping to search large coolers, if you're stopping to look through large purses, if you're looking at large cameras as they go through, the admission lines are going to stop," said Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher.
And things at Gate 1 ran like a well-oiled machine. Lines were minimal, and people were happy.
"It was just as quick as a few years ago when I came. No problem whatsoever," said Shain Avney, a Louisville resident.
And security officials let things slide a bit when it came to that new 12-inch rule for purses.
"I asked them yesterday, how well do they check?" said one woman. "And they said, 'We'll give you a little bit of lee-way if it's not overstuffed.'"
In the infield, people didn't seem too upset at the prospect of purchasing the track's cooler and ice for $5, but there was another issue.
Something else you won't find in the infield this year: pop-up tents. After the risk of severe weather during Oaks last year caused the infield to be evacuated for the first time ever, officials were worried that the tents could become projectiles in severe weather. So this year, people are rigging up their own, using tarps -- but that's causing a different problem. It's making it hard to see the track.
"Like, you have to have basically the equivalent of shoreline property or you're screwed," said Greg Moore, a resident of St. Louis.
Casey Spellman from Carmel, Indiana said, "They're happy, but it's rough for the people in the back, that we can't get up there, we can't see, so that kinda sucks."
Jerry Bennett, however, was another one of those who flew under the radar, since her structure was considered a screen house, not a tent. It's the kind of technicalities people will have to learn as they adjust to the new rules, since they're likely not going away.
Louisville Metro Police said officers in the Churchill Downs detail on Saturday made 27 arrests and wrote five citations; officers involved in the overall special Derby detail throughout town made 20 felony and misdemeanor arrests, served 21 felony and misdemeanor warrants and wrote 24 citations, separate from traffic citations.
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