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Derby Longmont style: Two local businesses bring the Kentucky tradition to Longmont

After a break last year because of the COVID-10 pandemic, the Longtucky Derby is back on the books Saturday.

Born out of a personal passion in their backyard, the Longtucky Derby is a tradition that Abbott and Wallace Distilling co-owners, John and Stephanie Young, have organized for half a decade seeking to bring family, friends and others in the community together.

The event will take place from 2-9 p.m. at the local distillery, 350 Terry St., Suite 120, where a section of Fourth Avenue. will be fenced off for added, safe space, according to a press release.

The traditional Hot Brown dish, a Kentucky-born sandwich recipe created in the 1920s, will be served along with live music featuring the performances of Mike Ippolitto and Jordan Bass.

Visitors will be able to participate in inflatable rody relays, races on inflatable horse toys, as well as a derby hat contest for a chance to win a bottle of bourbon. 

Lora Ann Langfahl, Longmont resident and hat designer, has been participating in the Longtucky Derby since its inception. She has designed hats just for the occasion, she said.

“The hat I wore when I wore on my first contest there is still at the distillery,” she said. “For us, (the event) gives us a feeling like family, it’s quaint, not a huge to do party like the Denver Derby Party, and it’s close to home.”

Langfahl’s love for hat design started at an event not too unlike Abbott and Wallace’s, she said. 

“I had a friend who was a Derby Princess many moons ago when she lived (in Kentucky). She would have a party with a hat contest. That first year I ran into Boulder, found a hat, and won the contest. The next year, I got a different hat, planned ahead sooner, and won again,” she said. “I got the bug from that idea.”

What was a personal pleasure in 2008, her first derby hat contest turned into a small, local business, Hatsafrass, that she runs from her home in Longmont, she said. 

“Ever since then, I started with easy ones, made mistakes and got better at it and started to do fancier ones (hats),” she said. 

With the return of events and parties post-pandemic, Langfahl hopes more opportunities will arise to do more of the work she loves, she said. 

Young said the tradition started five years ago at Young’s house as something he and friends enjoyed doing while watching the Kentucky Derby.

“It was just a house party we threw, and when we were making the final decision on the name change (of the distillery), it was one way to get a public opinion and our friends’ feedback,” he said.  “People could cast votes and that is how horses (toys) would move along on the track.” 

The year 2020 was a challenging for the local business, according to Abbott, since their work at the distillery is a full-time job for him and his wife, he said. 

“We never let our employees go and trying to support our family was extremely difficult,” he said. “We are not in the clear yet, people are still coming back but we are feeling a change and feel more optimistic.”

The distillery had to close October through December last year, which significantly impacted the business’ bottom line.

“We did our darndest to play by the rules, we never had to close except when the government told everyone to close, and having to close during the holidays was a major gut punch, followed by the slowest months of the year,” Young said. 

Abbott said he hoped the event can continue to grow year by year so one day he can partner with community organizations and nonprofits to make this tradition a fundraiser that supports work happening locally, he said. 

“We are just trying to get people into the spirit of the derby,” he said. “In the future, maybe we would like to work with other like-minded establishments.”