Called the greatest two minutes in sports, the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is set to do it again today — and South Walton will be watching.
For locals, the biggest horse race of the year is yet another dandy reason to get together.
Some are huge fans and follow the horses all year. But for others, it's about the creativity they put into their Derby hats. Some go a step farther and coordinate their colors with those of the horse's silks. And, indeed, some friendly wagers will no doubt be made.
The mint juleps will flow, and many a ham biscuit and bourbon ball will be enjoyed.
Seagrove's Bob and Susan Dobes watch every year. A Louisville native, Susan has been watching since 1954.
"We have had Derby parties with food and mint juleps in our silver julep glasses at home. We always wear a Derby hat and sometimes bet a dollar on our pick for the winner. We have gone to restaurants with our hats and engaged everyone, including the kitchen staff, to participate and bet a dollar," said Susan. "Bob gave me a personally autographed Peter Max poster he created for the 100th wearing of the Derby hats. Sometimes we just sit and watch it together. But we always watch, and we always seem to yell a lot."
Sandestin's Mary Damroth is another Kentucky girl.
"The state of fast horses and beautiful women!" she says. "I have been to the Derby on several occasions and last year I had the quintessential Derby party, with most of the food ordered from Kentucky, ladies in their glorious hats, and mint juleps, of course. There is such a romance with the Derby — the tradition, the singing of 'My Old Kentucky Home,' and feeling that your horse will be the winner!"
Santa Rosa Beach's Mike McCarty said he and wife Sherri usually watch, but where they watch usually depends on Sherri's travel schedule.
"Sherri was a University of Kentucky graduate (as was her father). She worked as a groom's girl with the jockeys while in college. It gets in your blood. We have a few boxes of the old vintage Derby glasses that we pull out each year and use on Derby day," said Mike. "It's a fun tradition!"
Grayton's David Bludworth also likes the Derby and watches wherever he may be. He has attended twice while at Armor School in Fort Knox. He said wife Judi bet on the biggest horse one year and won even though he was a long shot, but she liked his eyes. The Bludworths will watch from home this year. They will put all entries in a cup, bet a dollar, then pick a blind number.
As a horse owner, Sandestin's Susan Lovelace will watch the Derby from her horse farm while sipping a mint julep.
"We were fortunate enough to be invited to go one year by friends. It was incredible. I got to dress up and wear a beautiful hat. Now that I own three horses I pray that those young horses are strong enough to run and are not injured. They are beautiful race horses but are so young and their bones too. It's an incredible sporting event and just like human competitive events, there are risks," she said.
South Walton Fire Chief Rick Talbert said he and wife Laura always try to watch it together, and they have a goal of attending in person one day.
"Laura and I met while we both lived in Ocala (thoroughbred horse country), and she was running and exercising racehorses at some of the most prominent farms in the area," he said.
Seagrove's Jane Soloman was able to mark the Derby off her bucket list last year when she and some girlfriends attended. But this year, she will sip her mint juleps from the comfort of a friend's home.
Sandestin's Jon Vice said he enjoys the race but would never go to the Derby.
"Too many amateurs!" he said. He usually watches from the comfort of his home, but this year he will watch it at the Atlanta airport awaiting a flight to Rome.
Commissioner Cindy Meadows said last year she was invited to view the Derby at a private party and hopes she is invited again this year.
"I did pick the winner, so they might not invite me!" she jokes.
Sandestin's Jerry and Doreen Baca try to watch the Derby every year — usually at the Ocean Club while having an early dinner. But this year, the couple is breaking that habit and going to the home of a friend.
Gulf Place's Tom and Michelle Fillingim usually watch while sipping mint juleps from their third-floor tower, but this year will watch from the home of a friend.
For Miramar Beach's Gena Bolton, it's all about the hats.
"Love the hats! I've never been to the Derby or any other horse race, but I have enjoyed them on TV a few times," she said. "I am a huge fan of the horse and the movie 'Secretariat.'"
However, she won't get to participate this year due to a prior engagement.
Horse lady Shari Roberts said she doesn't always wear a hat, but she usually watches the Derby.
Seagrove's Sharon Jenkins can't wait to make her special hat and wear it to a friend's Derby party.
Seagrove's Randy Torrey doesn't care about the hats, but he looks forward to a nice spread of food, beverages, and the friendly betting that takes place on Derby day.
"Make up a pool so everyone has a stake in the race," he advises.
Sandestin's Dennis Dumler said he is an avid fan and covered two Derbys during his days as a sportscaster at CNN, but this year, he won't be watching as his son Paul is getting married in suburban Atlanta that afternoon.
"I don't think either one of them would approve of me watching the race instead," said Dennis. "There will be plenty of time to watch the replays."