Flaunt your hat style on Kentucky Derby day at Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse
Mint juleps. Horse racing. Stylish hats.
You don’t need to travel to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on May 2 to enjoy a lively atmosphere on Kentucky Derby race day. Locals are bringing the style and taste of the Kentucky Derby from 4 to 7 p.m. at Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse on the North Side.
The Derby Party is the idea of two former Louisville residents: artist Ashley Cecil and Regina Koetters, owner of Marty’s Market in the Strip District. They joined with Wigle co-owner Meredith Grelli and milliner Gina Mazzotta to complete the event’s team.
“Hats are the Kentucky Derby,” says Mazzotta of Baden, who designs fashionable headpieces for any occasion. “A hat can transform any outfit — not only in how it completes your overall look, but in how it can change your attitude and the way you carry yourself.”
Mazzotta and Cecil teamed up to design a hat that Cecil will don at the party. The pattern was developed from a sketch Cecil used on an oil painting.
“I love to collaborate and make something that has never been made before,” says Cecil, who plans to keep her outfit pretty basic. “I am going to let the hat make the statement.”
Mazzotta created her first headpiece for a polo match she was attending by using a shoulder pad, flowers and silk. She says her hat was a hit, so she took a workshop in Ohio to better learn the craft.
“I loved Ashley’s textile designs,” Mazzotta says. “I enjoy collaborating with another artist and love making custom hats for people. I love to make hats, but I also love to see other people’s hats, because that is really exciting.”
Cecil moved to Pittsburgh four years ago with her husband, Adam Paulisick, who grew up in Export. They live in Highland Park, and she has a studio in the East End.
Cecil, who is known for her Derby-associated artwork, will debut new equine-inspired pieces at the event.
“I love to see people go all out with outfits, and the Derby is the perfect time to go all out,” Cecil says. “The Kentucky Derby is a huge party in Louisville, so we wanted to bring the festivities to Pittsburgh.”
In addition to the larger-than-life hats designed by Mazzotta, there will be prizes for best hat, picked by Mazzotta, and a best-dressed award, decided on by fashion designer Kiya Tomlin.
Tomlin says she’s looking forward to the creativity among the guests to see how they are styled as well as which headwear they choose.
“It will be such a fun and fashionable day,” Tomlin says. “I’m really looking to see how the fashions compare.”
There will also be music by Jmac and Junior.
The only break will be for the running of the 141st Kentucky Derby, which starts at approximately 6:24 p.m.
Not to be overlooked, mint juleps will be featured at the Derby Party, but with a twist: They will be made with wheat whiskey by Wigle Whiskey’s contemporary distillers. There also will be punch drinks made with rum and gin.
Grelli says she wanted to be a part of the event to let people know about the strong history of whiskey in Pittsburgh — how residents of this area moved to Louisville long ago to avoid taxes on alcohol.
“We hope to make this an annual event,” Grelli says. “We are a pretty laid-back kind of place, so this event will give all of us at Wigle the chance to get gussied up.”
The Barrelhouse and garden opened in 2014 and houses over 800 whiskey barrels. The outdoor space features a whiskey garden with lots of iris and apple trees that Wigle uses to make its products.
Koetters, founder of Marty’s Market, which opened in July 2012, says the Derby is more than a horse race — it’s an event that lasts for several days in Louisville.
She recalls getting time off from school to partake in parades, fireworks and races.
For the event, Koetters plans to make finger foods that represent the Derby — from Derby pies of pecans soaked in bourbon and chocolate, to Hot Brown sandwiches, which are similar to a turkey Devonshire without the tomato, to pork-bourbon sliders and pimento cheese spread on crackers.
“I live here now, but there is no way I am going to break away from the Kentucky Derby,” Koetters says. “This is so exciting for me, and I plan to give guests a taste of the Derby. The Derby is about everything from food to fashion to drinks. It’s about all of the festivities happening around the track.”
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at [email protected] or 412-320-7889.