LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The dramatic year that was can almost make you forget the fun that happened inside the gates of Churchill Downs. March 2020 started it all.
"I don't think at that time we really knew the severity of it," Chris Goodlett, the Kentucky Derby Museum's director of Curatorial & Educational Affairs said. "Would this be two weeks, two months, a year?"
Track officials would postpone the race to the first Saturday in September. Life since, especially at the track, has been a shell of what we used to know.
Think back to the decades when ponies, pageantry and people ruled the racetrack.
Remember the infield? There were shenanigans, mud slides and of course booze. "Get your mint juleps," is heard every few minutes.
"Beer runs you to the restroom," a fan told WDRB News back in the 90s. "Mint Juleps, you can just sip and add more ice."
Then there's Millionaire's Row, where VIPs and MVPs come to play.
"I was an honored to bring all my teammates and offensive linemen," Hall of Fame quarterback Eli Manning said in 2009.
"I'm just excited to be here with my boyfriend and his family," Paris Hilton added that year.
The crowds were just as synonymous with Derby as the horses.
"Everywhere you go, you're going to see people," Goodlett said. "If you're in those concession lines, they're going to be long concession lines. Those betting lines. They're long betting lines."
A colorful, packed Paddock displayed the best and not so great in fashion right next to one another.
We're not back there yet, but we are getting close. Soon the memories you have now of Derby's past will be the way it is again.
Then, COVID at Churchill will become a memory, likely on display at the Derby Museum.
"I think as we get five years down the road, ten years down the road, etc., I think yeah we'll be able to better reflect, and maybe incorporate in the exhibits here, that moment in time and what it meant," said Goodlett.
It's the kind of finish line we're all ready to reach.
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