Kentucky Derby traditions with a one-of-kind twist - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

Kentucky Derby traditions with a one-of-kind twist

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

Nick Stafford started going to the Kentucky Derby when he was 16-years-old. It's a tradition his dad started when he too was just sixteen living near the racetrack in Louisville. Nick grew up playing baseball with his best friend, Jon Hand, and invited him take the annual trip to the Run for the Roses. Jon had an idea that landed the group in books, magazines, banners, commercials, and the Church Hill Downs infield museum. 

"In 2016, Jon said, 'we should dress up in something,'" Kentucky Derby fan, Nick Stafford, said. "He decided to go with Uncle Sam, so he walked around the infield and just started pointing at people telling them, 'you need to pay your taxes' and talking about 'Merica. People loved it."

The group was hooked. They have fun a picking a new theme each year for Saturday at the track. But Friday's theme  always stays the same. 

"I've had some family members that have died of cancer, who have had breast cancer," Kentucky Derby fan, Jon Hand, said. "My aunt recently just beat breast cancer. She's in remission, which is fantastic. All of our pants match, our shoes match, and the only thing that we change up is our shirt colors."

Besides supporting the fight against breast cancer, the guys have battled evil ninjas and frightening ghosts. 

"Turtles," Stafford said. "Hands down. We got the most attention. We took about two thousand pictures that day. We literally couldn't do anything, including, eat, go to the bathroom, and bet without someone wanting to stop and take a picture with us."

"I did enjoy the Ninja Turtles, and it was by far our best year," Hand said. "But Ghostbusters and when I dressed up as Stay Puft Man Marshmallow was probably my favorite."

The group has grown to six guys and, for the first time, their wives and girlfriends will witness the greatest two minutes in sports. 

"It's always nice to see when you walk in to the track with a person that's never been there before," Hand said. "Always their first experience. All the stuff you've been talking about, all the stuff you've been telling them, they walk in and they go, 'oh my god, this is awesome.'"

As for the future.

"In a couple years, I've got a 3-year-old son, Maximus, and I don't know if he'll want to come or not," Stafford said. "But if he does, he gets to come when he's sixteen."
 

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