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They call the Kentucky Derby the most exciting 2 minutes in sports, but everyone knows the Kentucky Derby is much more than that.  For those involved with the horses, it is months and sometimes even years of hard work and preparation.  For those in the infield it is hours and hours of Mardi Gras-type partying with NASCAR-type folks.  For me and thousands others, the Derby is a chance to show a different side of our style – one that includes pretty dresses and fantastic hats!  The hats are sometimes talked about as much as the winning horse, and are as much a part of the tradition as the roses and the mint juleps.

The Kentucky Derby is a part of my family’s tradition.  My great-Uncle Tommy has been to 62 Derbys (60 in row!) and one of his first was standing at the 16th post as an ROTC Cadet.  My great-Aunt Emily Jane accompanied my uncle on most of those 60 Derbys before she passed away a few years ago.  One of her infamous Derby’s (sometime in the 1950s) was when her cigarette fell in between the floorboards of the grandstand and caught the area on fire.  Her response to the smoke was to walk away calmly and quickly so no one would associate the small fire with her. (I’d have done the same thing!)  My parents have been to 15 Derbys and I have been to 7.  The process of picking out the outfits is as much a part of the tradition as is the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” as the horses enter the track.

So let’s talk hats a bit… You see everything at the Derby.  From giant “floppies” (as my brother calls them) to towering fascinators, wide-brimmed straw with feathers and tulle, home-made hats with horses and roses, and everything in between.  This year’s Derby didn’t disappoint. There were some beautiful hats, some outrageous hats, some hats that left you wondering “what were they thinking?”, and some that were just plain ugly.

Our group had a wide variety of hats and each one somehow managed to capture our personality!

Below are some of the big “floppies” that caught our eye:

This woman’s hat was so cool.  It was a unique shape, had black butterflies all over, and on one side a butterfly net.  She was a pretty neat lady and was with her father-in-law who had been to over 70 consecutive Kentucky Derbys!!

This woman we deemed to be one of the best dressed at the Derby!  Loved her fascinator and the different textures used.  She looked beautiful from head to toe!

 This one was a close second.  Color is fantastic!

You can see more hats and fashion here on The Huffington Post – my mom is picture #24 and my brother’s finacé Emily is #9!  They were also featured on jeweler Kendra Scott’s blog!

While no one in our group won enough to fill out tax forms, we had a great time and got to spend a lot of quality time together – which is the best part of the whole experience!

~Emily