San Jose residents are encouraged to break out their big, bright hats and bow ties to pony up for a good cause at two upcoming Kentucky Derby-themed fundraisers in Willow Glen.
Both events will be competing neck-and-neck on Derby Day while offering distinctly different experiences that celebrate the Run for the Roses in their own way.
For the first time ever, the popular San Jose Derby, which benefits the Robby Paine Foundation, will be held outdoors on May 6 at Mulcahy Grounds, better known as the Garden Theatre parking lot on Lincoln Avenue.
After selling out the previous two years at Cafe Stritch in downtown San Jose, organizers decided to accommodate more people, and a move to the theater was suggested. The venue change is also a homecoming of sorts, since the foundation’s namesake was a popular Willow Glen resident who died several years ago at the age of 25. Robby Paine graduated from Willow Glen High School and his family still lives in the neighborhood.
Proceeds benefit three organizations that Robby Paine’s father, Scott Paine, said shaped his son’s life: the Willow Glen Foundation, Young Life’s Woodleaf Camp and a scholarship to Chico State University, where Robby got his bachelor’s degree in hotel management.
“That kind of carries on the spirit of Robby’s hospitality,” Scott Paine said in an interview about the scholarship. “Robby was an amazing kid, and he was very hospitable to all sorts of people and, being in hotel management, he was able to carry that on.”
Garden Theatre owner Michael Mulcahy told the Resident he’s excited to help bring the San Jose Derby to Willow Glen. After missing it for the first two years, he’s looking forward to finally attending his first Derby party.
“The Kentucky Derby is such a great tradition, but it’s such a short race,” Mulcahy said. “Having some other people to anticipate the race with and getting to meet some new faces, have some good food and enjoy downtown Willow Glen on a Saturday sounds like a pretty cool way to enjoy yourself and do good for the community all at the same time.”
Although the event can accommodate more people because it’s outdoors, Mulcahy said its footprint is no larger than that of the Willow Glen Farmers Market, so although some parking in the lot will be available, organizers are still encouraging people to walk, bike or carpool to get there. All access points for the parking lot will be available except the entryway on Lincoln between Petco and the theater.
Paine said he hopes to have a sellout crowd of about 500, which could happen with the numerous attractions offered. Guests can relax in the shade of a “great, big tent” with a mint julep or iced tea and watch the race on a Jumbotron or several other giant TV screens. Live music, costume contests, unlimited drinks and food from the Purple Onion are also included with a $150 ticket.
Those who prefer a smaller, more intimate gathering can check out the Kentucky Derby Party benefit for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, happening on the same day in Willow Glen. Chris and Melissa Neumann have held the Derby party in their home ever since Chris was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia more than three years ago.
A glamorous afternoon can be expected right from the moment guests arrive on the red carpet at the front door, Melissa Neumann told the Resident.
“We want to show them a good time; we want to give them a unique event,” Neumann said. “We’re trying to make sure people feel special and feel like, ‘My money’s going to a great cause.’”
Derby-themed backdrops, signs and decorations should make attendees feel like they’ve been dropped right into the middle of Churchill Downs. An open bar with specialty cocktails and bourbon tasting, and a sit-down dinner add to the elegant vibe.
“We wanted it to be something very special, where you go get a babysitter, you get dressed up and go out,” Neumann added.
Guests can also take pictures in the photo booth area or try their luck with a silent auction, raffle ticket or by placing bets on the horses, with all proceeds going toward the cause.
Just like the Neumanns, Paine expects his Derby fundraiser to get even bigger as time passes.
“It’s going to be great for Willow Glen,” Paine said. “I really think it’s going to grow because if you don’t know anything about it and you see all these people walking around dressed up…you’ll probably ask, ‘What’s that story?’ and find out everybody had a good time, and hopefully you’ll go next year.”
The San Jose Derby and Kentucky Derby Party both will be held on May 6. The San Jose Derby is noon-5 p.m. in the Garden Theatre parking lot on Lincoln Avenue. Tickets are $150 at sanjosederby.com. The Kentucky Derby Party is 1-6 p.m.; event address will be given after $100 donation is made at bit.ly/2oqlpHj. Donations for both events are tax deductible.
BA (Hons) Youth Work and Community Development*
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If you want to make a difference in the lives of children, young people and their families this is the degree for you. It enables individuals to make decisions about their lives, build personal resilience and reach their full potential. This is one of the largest professional youth and community work training courses in the country providing you with a challenging and worthwhile career.
Youth work is a hands-on, face-to-face skill set and process which enables young people aged 11-25 to learn the skills, knowledge, values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours to support their transition from childhood to adulthood. It is a distinct educational process based on voluntary participation, equality of opportunity and empowerment enabling the holistic development of young people.
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