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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Kentucky Derby Party Benefits Food Link of Tulare County

Apr 24, 2017 11:00AM ● By Kendra Kaiserman

Off to the Races

May 2017
Story by Kendra Kaiserman
Photos courtesy of Bergreen Photography

You don’t need to leave the state to participate in the Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby Party fundraiser, which benefits Food Link of Tulare County, will be held at the Visalia Country Club on May 6. The Kentucky Derby Party, which began in 2010, “started off rather small on purpose,” says committee member and co-chair Tony Casares. “One of our support donors had gone to an event in Denver and brought back this idea, thinking this would be kind of a fun thing, and we decided to do our own thing in Visalia.”

The fundraiser began by hosting 70 people at the Cellar Door in Visalia, but outgrew that space and now hosts 350 to 400 guests outdoors at the Visalia Country Club and “hopes to grow and outgrow the country club” one day, as well. “We have large tents, mini television screens, a silent auction, a live auction that we do at the end, live entertainment and a local band,” Casares says. “We like to have some light music being played and games, such as a wine toss,” which Casares explains is like the ring toss carnival game.

Partygoers dress in “southern fashions, such as spring dresses for the ladies,” explains Casares. “It’s very, very exciting to go to.” And they make betting on horses simple. Two races are pre-recorded, and  people can bet on them and get derby bucks. Derby bucks can be used for the live auction, which includes many donated items such as “a VIP L.A. Dodgers experience where a child 12 years old or under runs out onto the field to get an autograph from a player prior to the first pitch,” Casares says. Then participants can bet actual dollars on the Kentucky Derby, which plays live. Participants win money based on which horse wins. “Whether you know anything about horse races or not, we make it fun for everyone,” says Casares.

Since Kentucky is three hours ahead of California, “we make up funny names for the horses,” so that people can’t look it up on their smart phones, Casares says.

Nine people on the Kentucky Derby Party committee this year are putting on the event, and others help on the day of the event, such as Food Link employees. To volunteer for the event, call Food Link. To participate in the event, you can buy tickets online, and in advance only.

The event is unique, but "what really is exciting to me is helping people get to know about Food Link. Donations go directly to Food Link,” Casares says. The nonprofit began in 1978 and has evolved from a food pantry into a food distributor and educator.

Food Link is based out of Exeter and is “a resource so people can learn how to best prepare our food,” says Casares.

Kentucky Derby Party Fundraiser

May 6 • 1 pm • Visalia Country Club • 625 N. Ranch St., Visalia

Food Link • (559) 651-3663 • 

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