Talk Derby to Me: Upon a Star Foundation hosts horse race fundraiser

Hat judge Maria Elena awards prizes to Janalyn Vanderjagt, Missy Prange, and Maria Berry. Talk Derby To Me, a Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser for the Upon a Star Foundation, brought 300 revelers to the Marco Island Brewery for mint juleps and over-the-top hats.  Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

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Hat judge Maria Elena awards prizes to Janalyn Vanderjagt, Missy Prange, and Maria Berry. Talk Derby To Me, a Kentucky Derby-themed fundraiser for the Upon a Star Foundation, brought 300 revelers to the Marco Island Brewery for mint juleps and over-the-top hats. Lance Shearer/Special to the Eagle

— The gathering was called “Talk Derby to Me,” but while there was tons of talk, and that brief horse race, it seemed the day was all about hats. Ladies wore a dazzling array of over-the-top toppers, the wilder the better, decorated with feathers, flowers, ribbons, and abandon. The “Talk Derby” event, in its fifth year, was a fundraiser for the Upon A Star Foundation, which helps local children and families in need.

Over 300 revelers showed up Saturday afternoon at the Marco Island Brewery for the party, according to owner Frank LaCava.

“This is our first time here hosting such a big party, where we had to close to the public,” he said. The crowd pressed into the restaurant, the ladies’ hats taking up all the extra room available, until movement became difficult and sightlines were obstructed. The party spilled out onto the sidewalk, with the help of the bar opening to the outside.

With flat screen TVs everywhere, it was easy to view the pre-Kentucky Derby events on NBC, but for the most part, nobody paid any attention. Attention was focused on schmoozing, hat-gazing, and getting teams lined up with their horses for the 50/50 race raffle.

Upon a Star Foundation co-founder and organizer Howard Jordan took the microphone.

“There are 19 horses running. My wife somehow sold 26 horses. No, 27,” he amended, after she corrected him. With prices from $100 for Clubhouse Sponsors to $500 for VIP Horse Owner Sponsors, this was a good thing, as the point of the event, along with the wacky hats, was to raise funds for the cause.

Another major focus was alcohol consumption, with the mint julep – “simple syrup, Bourbon, fresh mint, and a little soda,” said LaCava – the drink of choice, even for those who won’t consume another one till next year’s Derby Day. Along with the drinks, the sumptuous buffet made a hit with the guests, featuring Bourbon meatballs, Kentucky barbecue pulled pork, sesame Bourbon chicken nuggets, grouper fingers, and a carving station.

While the ladies were mostly dressed to the nines, sporting the heels and party dresses to go along with the hats, the men didn’t begin to match up, scruffy in shorts, sandals and t-shirts. One notable exception was Simon Padgett, who stood out in his striped sportcoat, pocket handkerchief, and Ray-Bans. Announcer Greg West summed up his look as “all pimped out.”

Hats were given their due when judge Maria Elena awarded the prizes for best hat. Janalyn Vanderjagt took first place, Missy Prange came in second, and Maria Berry snagged third. Many other ladies had memorable hats, including Pat Holmes, wearing a flower garden, and Sandy Boy, whose black feathered number appeared to have been involved in a murder of crows.

Dialed In, the real horse actually owned by part-time Marco resident Bob LaPenta, was the early favorite, but eventually the race went to Animal Kingdom. That made Simon Padgett the winner – see, dressing sharp does pay off – along his wife Victoria, and Liz and Wayne Henuset. Kathy Hughes-Scheetz won the cooler filled with a blowout’s worth of booze, but the big winner was the Upon A Star Foundation, which raised $28,000, said Howard Jordan.

“Save the date for next year – 5-5-12,” he said.

To support the work of the Upon A Star Foundation, call (239) 272-3090 or go to www.uponastarfoundation.org.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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