When the world turns its attention to Louisville on the first Saturday each May for the pageantry of the Kentucky Derby, those in the know look towards the Barnstable Brown Party the evening before the big race. The gala, which is held in the home of Patricia Barnstable Brown and co-hosted by her twin sister, Priscilla Barnstable, not only holds its own amongst other Derby parties throughout the weekend (Vanity Fair Derby Eve Party at 21C hotel and restaurant; Lillies and Fillies annual fete), but supersedes them.
It is rare for such a notable family (the Barnstable Brown family is one of the wealthiest and most notable in Louisville: Patricia and Priscilla were famously Doublemint twins and appeared in Playboy) to open up their private home - rarer still when they open it up to hundreds of guests, including a significant amount of celebrities. But for 28 years, attendees have used the family's bathrooms and lounged on their personal furniture. It's paid off: In the last nine years alone, they've raised more than $11 million for the Barnstable Brown Diabetes and Obesity Research Center at the University of Kentucky.
"We are goal-oriented on being true charity. We don't do this just for fun," said 83-year-old Wilma Barnstable, the matriarch of the Barnstable family. "We have loyal people who come year after year and I have the pleasure of talking to people from all over the country and that is so much fun. Oaklohoma, Texas, New York! And they all come back and that is a relationship I cherish."
Parties for philanthropies are nothing notable - even ones with VIP areas (celebrities at Barnstable were given red bracelets; everyone else, who paid $1300 a ticket, were given silver) - but this event is treated like a private family gathering. Chris Barnstable Brown stood at the door and greeted every guest who came through in their black-tie with a hand-shake, including Tony Romo and Taylor Kinney. "Things can get a little crazy down here," he said.
True, most house parties don't have throngs of celebrity seekers with autograph books trawling outside of them; they don't usually have hot air balloons on their front lawns either. Inside, Kate Upton roamed around the estate's dining room, and Megyn Kelly posed with guests by the family's indoor pool. Lindsey Vonn and Aaron Rodgers watched from a tri-level party space in the family's backyard, while on stage, Upton introduced the talent for the night, a parade of musicians including Bon Jovi's Richie Sambora, Brian McKnight, Boyz 2 Men, Gretchen Wilson, Taylor Dane, and The Voice's Jordan Smith.
Upton was also a mainstay this year at Millionaires Row at Churchill Downs, where more than a few of the guests at the Barnstable Gala watched the American Thoroughbred racehorse named Nyquist win the 2016 Derby. Sitting high above the insanity of the infield (which sits approximately 60,000 for $60 a pop), Millionaires Row stretches across the fouth and sixth floors of the track and offers an unprecedented view of the races, as well as other Derby guests as they peacock in their hats and finest attire. The novelty of the Derby - and Millionaires Row - each year? The $1,000 mint julep, served in a silver or gold-plated cup and a gold-plated sipping straw, made with Woodford Reserve. Now that's trackside luxury.
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