Every year while watching Derby coverage on television, I watch Angie Fenton and ask myself, “How does she do it all?” She is at every event, nonstop, dressed, ready and alert. I asked her to tell us about how to keep your stamina up during this Derby week. She has great advice and shares her master plan with us today. 


Preparing for the Kentucky Derby can be exhausting, but once the festivities begin, it’s all about enjoying every moment, which is best accomplished with a bit of pre-planning. I’ve covered the Derby season for a variety of media outlets every year since 2004 and have learned by trial and error. Here are my top tips for doing Derby without letting it do you in.

How To Do Derby Without Letting It Do You

Angie hosting the Oaks Day Fashion Contest in 2013.

Organize Your Outfits

By now you most likely know what parties you will attend and whether you’re attending Thurby (the Thursday before Derby), Oaks and/or the actual Derby. Make it easy on yourself and set out each outfit and their accompanying accessories, and then label each one. Years ago, I purchased an inexpensive clothing rack and always hang each one of my get-ups in sequential order with a label reminding me where I am wearing it and whether I need to wear any of the accessories to another event. I also pack a bag filled with essentials — like plastic rain ponchos, breakfast bars, bottled water and a list of important phone numbers, just in case something happens to my cell, and I stow it in the car. Each time I come home, I simply hang up the old outfit and put on the next. Laundry can wait until post-Derby, but keeping your dressing space tidy saves time and lets you focus your energy on what really matters.

Careful With The Caffeine

The first couple years I covered Derby, I tried to keep up my stamina by drinking a lot of coffee and energy drinks. The result was shaky hands, an upset stomach and the inevitable crash. What worked best was drinking plenty of water and mini-meals throughout the day and night. I didn’t drink alcohol while I was working, but if you’re attending for fun and look forward to imbibing, pace yourself. Unlike the actual Run for the Roses, it’s a long ride to the finish.

How To Do Derby Without Letting It Do You

Angie interviewing Kid Rock while hosting the red carpet for Churchill Downs at Derby 2013

Ride (Safely) In Style

No matter who you are or what your purpose is at Derby, you’re going to have to contend with traffic. Make it easy on yourself and either map out a plan to use shuttles, a taxi, a limo (if you’re lucky) or hire a driver. In the past, my marathon always began Wednesday night and didn’t end until Sunday afternoon, so I would often pay someone to pick me up and drop me off everywhere I went to ensure my sleep deprivation didn’t affect anyone else. I also found not having to figure out where to park or how to navigate the busy streets and road closures gave me extra brain power to focus elsewhere.

Nab A Nap

You don’t have to be a genius to know the value of taking a nap. Eleanor Roosevelt used to take a short one before public speeches, Thomas Edison went on an incredibly inventive three-day binge sustained only by naps. Surrealist painter Salvador Dali used to snooze with a spoon in his hand, only to get up as soon as it crashed onto a plate he laid down on the floor. Twenty minutes leaves me feeling refreshed. If I nap much longer, I’m down for the count. Whatever you do, figure out a way to get at least a few moments of shut-eye. Afterwards, refresh your hair and makeup, and move on to your next affair.

How To Do Derby Without Letting It Do You

Angie interviewing Seth Myers at the 2010 Derby.

Choose Your Friends Wisely

Attending Derby with friends and family can be fun, but be sure you’re attending with people on whom you can rely. Or, make plans to meet up separately from one another, so no one feels obligated to accommodate the masses. I’ve heard far too many post-Derby laments from pals who missed out on various aspects of the celebration because they felt guilty for wanting to take in the festivities a bit differently or go home early to rest up for the next day. As always, be kind and courteous, but do Derby the way you want to. It doesn’t matter if this is your first or your fifteenth, every year offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Stop And Smell The Roses

Making it through Derby shouldn’t feel like you’re checking off a to-do list, whether you’re attending as a spectator or working the historic event. One year, I came home around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning after spending the previous three days conducting pre-Derby sit-down interviews with a couple of big-time celebrities, dishing Derby on several TV and radio stations, covering all of the major galas and numerous after-parties, hosting the Oaks Day fashion contest and Derby Day red carpet for Churchill Downs and still had to file a full-length feature and a column by noon that day. Exhausted beyond anything I’d ever felt, I sat outside on my deck and wrote, but when the sun began to rise, I heard birds singing nearby, and I started to cry. Even though I wanted nothing more than to lay my head on a pillow and sleep until I woke up, even if that meant no one would hear from me for a week, I was suddenly overcome by all of the moments I had been privy to but hadn’t really experienced. I vowed never to allow myself to do Derby in that way again. And I’ve kept that promise, which sometimes means calling my mom for a few moments during the weekend to share what I’ve witnessed or taking a minute to stop and stand in the midst of the immense crowd in the paddock as the Derby contenders prepared to ride. Once, I even walked up to a bouquet of roses set out on a table, closed my eyes and just inhaled as dozens of people mingled nearby. I know I must have looked silly, but I didn’t care. At that moment, I knew I did Derby, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.

How To Do Derby Without Letting It Do You

Angie interviewing Emilio Estevez while hosting the red carpet for Churchill Downs at Derby 2013.


Thanks for all these great ideas, Angie! We are ready!

You can see Angie on Great Day Live on WHAS-11 weekdays at 9:00 a.m.

angie fenton headshot

Angie Fenton is a member of the Louisville media and has covered the Kentucky Derby for the past decade, but is excited to do Derby at home this year with her fiance and their four dogs.