Thousands spend Derby Day at Keeneland

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - "For most Kentuckians, short of Christmas or maybe Thanksgiving, Derby is the next biggest holiday," said Jeff Walton.

It's a holiday that Walton and 20,000 other people are celebrating at Keeneland.

"We're close to the TVs, we have a little shade, we're close to the music, it's our spot. We've been here every year without fail," he said.

Every year without fail they watch as Keeneland starts to look a lot like Churchill Downs with mint juleps, big hats and even bigger bets.

"That's what's fun about the Derby, we're all experts for one day. Some people dress up for this, it's a big event but we're more for comfort, we're old we've done this before," laughed Walton.

Mike Emmons was the first one to save a spot in the paddock area at 4:30 Saturday morning.

"Same experience, just less of a crowd and closer to home so that's why we do it," he said.

Shannon MacDonald was also up early to set up a picnic to surprise her husband for his 30th birthday.

"He's always loved Keeneland, he loves the atmosphere. He loves a little betting and to have mint juleps," MacDonald said.

Walton says they keep coming back every year because Keeneland is the best way to do Derby Day.

"We talk about this all year long, this is what we do," he said.

"It's just a friendly, warm environment. I love it, I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world," Clairessa Hamilton said.

Keeneland officials say the betting windows are scheduled to close at 6:24 p.m.

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