Derby Day party supports training shop for handicapped

They call it the fastest two minutes in sports, although Secretariat would beg to differ. It’s a classic American tradition steeped in the mystique of Southern culture and the wealthy. It is also the first jewel in the coveted Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing.

It’s the Kentucky Derby, with its nutty haberdashery and big money winner’s circle.

Only 11 horses have won the three-tiered racing title in the events in more than 100 years, and only one — the formidable Secretariat — ran the 1.25 miles in faster than two minutes. It’s over in less than five minutes, but the party doesn’t stop there. Louisville, Ky., is the center of the wealthy world for one day a year. Last year, even Queen Elizabeth attended.

For those who can’t make the trip to Bluegrass Country, the Augusta Museum of History will host the annual Derby Day party to benefit the Augusta Restoration Shop.

Executive Director Audrey Murell laughs when she thinks back on previous parties. The hat contest and the traditional foods like mint juleps and Kentucky Derby pies capture the feel of being at Churchill Downs for the run for the roses.

Bet on your favorite horse for a chance to win cash prizes. Compete in the ladies’ hat contest, bid on silent auction items including hand-built furniture and artwork. Enjoy catering from Wife Saver, which will be offering a barbecue spread, and dance to live music from Air Apparent.

“If you’re an equestrian fan, it’s something you need to be at,” she stressed. “It’s very tough to get a ticket to Churchill Downs.”

As a result of an exclusivity that rivals Augusta’s well-known golf tourney, a who’s-who of Augusta society mingle between chairs and auction tables to support a local agency that trains and employs adults who are physically and mentally handicapped.

The Augusta Restoration Shop teaches the kind of services that artisans of old offered to the wealthy: furniture making, household repairs and antique restoration. By keeping old techniques and traditions alive, it ensures the future both of artistic techniques and adults who may otherwise find themselves without employment enough to sustain them.

Because of the rare specialties, Murell said that she draws clients from all over the Southeast who come searching for delicate repairs to valuable period pieces, unique vintage furniture and family heirlooms.

“I have customers from Atlanta, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. I have customers that search for our services and they can’t find them anywhere — especially the hand-caning and the rush work,” Murell said.

Caning and rush work are types of weaving found on the seats and backs of chairs and repairs to wicker work and other fibrous lacing. It’s time-consuming, sometimes back-breaking and requires an ability to focus and plan.

The Derby Day party goes to support the education, training and financing of this artistry.

“We are not nationwide,” Murell said. “We are here, locally, making an impact.”

Derby Day Party
Augusta Museum of History
Saturday, May 3
5-9 p.m

Buzz builds around baseball team’s batting

Shortstop Brian Bocock has nerves of steal. He took 26 bases behind the backs of dozing pitchers while playing with the Augusta GreenJackets last year.

His fleet feet, along with the batting bluster of Emmanuel Burris and Mike McBryde, created a buzz that caught the attention of sports nuts across the CSRA.

This year, get ready for more all-American excitement.

From Thirsty Thursdays to more fireworks displays than Wacky Wayne could shake a Roman Candle at, the games aren’t the only thing that keep baseball fans singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

There’s the possibility of a new stadium downtown, and the always economical package prices. Not to mention the hometown pride that packs GreenJackets Stadium as strongly as it does at Lambeau Field. But we’re mixing our sports similes.

The GreenJackets coaching staff will have a new skipper at the helm in 2008, but a familiar face when the season starts in April. Andy Skeels has been tabbed by the San Francisco Giants to run their Single-A team in Augusta. Also returning to Augusta is Pitching Coach Ross Grimsley. New to the coaching staff for Augusta in 2008 will be Hitting Coach Lipso Nava and trainer Eric Ortega.

The GreenJackets will open the 2008 season at home on Thursday, April 3 with a four-game series against Greensboro.

The home stand will finish on Sunday, April 6; one day before The Masters first practice round will begin. It is the first time since the 2003 season that the GreenJackets will open at home before The Masters.

Hit the Lynx this autumn

That roar coming from the James Brown Arena on game night is more than a certain team of big cats on the hunt. It’s their legion of fans shouting their approval.

After 10 years of working through this experiment — asking whether a winter sport would catch on in the South — Augusta has answered “yes” in a way that can be heard after every goal, body check and puck pass.

“Every seat has a great view of the action,” said Alex Kyrias, director of broadcasting and public relations for the Lynx.

And action there is. Speed and timing are the crucial elements of this game. It’s not a pastime for the weak-at-heart. For the 10th anniversary, the team plans some special promotional nights. Opening weekend is Oct. 19 and 21, and children will have an especially grand time. But they’ll also collect canned food to benefit It’s Spooky To Be Hungry.

The year’s most touching promotion comes on Dec. 8, when thousands of fans who spend half the game screaming for blood will take part in the Teddy Bear Toss.

“When the guys score the first goal of the game, people bring teddy bears and throw them onto the ice,” explained Cari Weaver, director of community relations. Team members donate them to the local children’s hospitals. Last year, they collected more than 350 bears for sick children.

Finally, the second annual New Year’s Eve after-game party at the James Brown Arena is the area’s coolest event.

“We have a New Year’s party in the Lynx Den with party favors and food and the bars are open. Last year had a band and an Elvis impersonator,” Weaver laughed. But there’s a catch: “You can’t get in if you don’t come to the game.”

The season begins Oct. 19 and continues until April 5. Call 706-724-4423 or visit