It's known as the sport of kings. Thoroughbred horse racing dates back to 17th-century England, and horse racing, in general, goes all the way back to the 12th century. Soon, Americans will turn their attention toward the ancient sport as the 138th annual "Run for the Roses" will happen, as the Kentucky Derby is run on the bluegrass of Lexington.
You don't have to pack the car up and head south to get the thrill of being at the big race, though. On April 28, Niagara Rises, Inc. will hold the Third Annual Kentucky Derby in Niagara Falls night right here in the Cataract City at the Conference Center at Antonio's at 77th Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard.
The proceeds from the evening will go to benefit the teen center at the Earl W. Brydges Library. Just like the actual race at Churchill Downs, the "derby" at Niagara Falls will feature a race card of actual (prerecorded) thoroughbred races, "betting" windows, payoffs (in the form of chances to win a multitude of prizes) and the visceral thrill of screaming your lungs out as your horse makes the turn at the top of the stretch and barrels toward the finish line.
The Kentucky Derby at Niagara Falls event also features all of the trimmings that separate Churchill Downs from every other race track in the world. Things like mint juleps and more beautiful women in hats than you can shake a riding crop at.
The combination of speed and power is what makes horses so irresistible to sports lovers around the globe. There is something in the graceful gait of a thoroughbred that speaks to the very essence of what it is to be unshackled from life's constraints and to know the feeling of unbridled power that is encased in the freedom of perpetual motion.
That same sense of freedom through movement could be a metaphor for the youth of Niagara Falls. For kids here to get where they are going in life, they need direction. Direction in a community is often called a movement, and the best movements employ movement, in the literal sense, as the first step in getting the mind to follow the body to pastures greener than the ones previously walked.
When Niagara Rises, Inc. was granted its 501c3, it was done with the mandate that it work to better the city of Niagara Falls by combating the city's high rate of poverty and juvenile delinquency. This year's "Kentucky Derby in Niagara Falls" event will do that by partnering with one of the oldest institutions in the city.
"The proceeds from the event will go to the Earl W. Brydges Library to support their teen center," said Niagara Rises, Inc. Vice President Colleen Kulikowski, "Their programs reach kids at risk in our community and get them off the streets and into a program that stresses education and social responsibility."
Library Director Michelle Petrazzoulo pushed for the program at the library and knows how crucial it is to the future lives of the kids that participate.
"Teens who use the library become adults who see the public library as a great resource in their lives. (Teen Librarian) Michelle Ornat is the perfect person to engage them with technology and then challenge them mentally. We are really excited to get this program going and to expand it in the future," Petrazzoulo said.
Ornat says that the plan is for the center (housed where the gift shop used to be located on the main floor of the main library) to contain "six dedicated computers with movie making, photo, anime and manga software. Teens will also have the opportunity to help decorate the space and will be able to contribute to projects on a continuous basis, leaving their imprint in the library."
She also stated that one of the initial projects that the young adults will be tackling is "developing videos that promote library services. The teens who come to the library value its services, want to get everyone talking about the library, and want people to discover or rediscover all the resources the library has to offer."
Kulikowski shares their vision of the importance of the teen center in our community.
"Unfortunately, the city is mired in this mess with the casino revenues and, as a result, they have had to freeze spending on new projects. This is why Niagara Rises, Inc. was formed, to help fill in the holes when government can't. Thankfully, our city has a wonderful library staff that shares our vision of rebuilding our city by nurturing and retaining our youth. This teen center will be a great asset to Niagara Falls, and we are so proud to be able to play a part in making it a reality."
The Friends of the Niagara Falls Public Library, led by President Dolores Marino, are working hard in support of the teen center and Kentucky Derby night by selling tickets and donating gift baskets. Their long hours and continued efforts on behalf of the library are a big reason why our education hub continues to expand and evolve here.
Aside from the altruistic aims of the Kentucky Derby event here, the fact remains that it is, hooves-down, one of the most fun nights on the Niagara Falls yearly event calendar. The night features six races, and the horses in each race are purchased for $100 each. Each "owner" gets to name her horse and jockey. A real racing program is created for each race, just like the ones at OTB.
There are betting windows, betting slips and winner boards, just like at world-renowned tracks like Saratoga. Attendees are served a meal big enough to feed a horse, and the cash bar keeps whistles wet all night long.
The hat contest is a go-all-out affair for many of the night's guests. There's also a trivia contest and a basket auction unrivaled in Western New York. Oh, and did I mention that you get all this for just $25? Get your ticket today before the stampede gets underway.
Event organizer Jennifer D'Alessandro is someone who knows firsthand what effect attending Kentucky Derby Night at Niagara Falls can have.
"Last year was my first year to attend. I didn't know what to expect. I was blown away by the energy in the room. The races, the people yelling for their horses, the thrill of victory -- it was a blast. So, here I am this year organizing it, and we have a donated sound system that is going to ratchet things up a few levels. It's a great night for an even greater cause. I can't wait to see everyone there," D'Alessandro said.
In horse racing it is not uncommon for a race to have a pacesetter -- a horse that runs to the front right out of the gate and sets the speed by which the race will be run. That's sort of what the teen center at the library aims to do for the kids of our community. Coming on out and enjoying the Kentucky Derby experience right here in Niagara Falls is a great way for the people of our community to help our teens as they "Run for the Roses" of life.
See you at the winner's circle.
Speaking of cool events in Niagara Falls, Amanda Casilio would like to remind everyone that video submissions are being accepted between April 1 and April 30 for the big "Niagara's Rising Star" Talent Show that will take place during Niagara Homecoming weekend on June 23, 2012, at the beautifully restored Rapids Theatre on Main Street.
The contest is open to all city residents ages 13 and up, along with all Niagara University and Niagara County Community College students. The Top 10 acts will compete live on the Rapids stage for the grand prize and a boost on their way to what the Beatles called "the topper most of the popper most!"
To learn more, e-mail email@example.com or visit the library for forms and the opportunity to video your submission on site.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||April 3 2012|