Derby Day

Dear Constant Reader,

I love carousels, especially antique carousels. My mild obsession started when I rode the Flying Horses Carousel on Martha’s Vineyard and grabbed the brass ring. Now I ride them whenever I can. Fortunately, there are a number in New England.

One of the closest ones is the Paragon Carousel at Nantasket Beach in Hull. on May 17th Scratch told me they were having a Derby Day fundraiser event that very night. We had a lot to do before Isle of Tease the next day, but I powered through and at the last minute decided not only to go, but for B.A.B.E. to sponsor a horse.

With the sponsorship I got to name the horse and decorate it. Name the horse? I stammered for a moment, then said “Kitten”, for Kitten Natividad. I dug up a couple of boas and a tiny top hat. Then dressed up in my Mrs. Maisel dress and grabbed my Millinery Investment. That’s what I call my Fleur de Paris hat. I bought it on my first trip to New Orleans and it was staggeringly expensive (for me). When I returned post-Katrina, I realized what a deal I had gotten…

Anyway, back to Derby Day. I had sponsored a second-row jumper, but because it was so late in the game, I was given a front row stander, hitched to one of the two chariots. We draped the boas around the horse and put on the little top hat, but most of the other horses were very elaborately decked out, with bunting and banners and other decorations relating to the sponsor’s business.

Mina & Kitten

Because it was a fundraiser, there were raffles and a silent auction, but the main event were the races. You bet on a horse by putting raffle tickets into the envelope with the horse’s number up on the tote board. If that horse won, they’d draw one of the raffle tickets from the envelope for the prize. 

Sponsors were encouraged to ride their horses and I needed no additional encouragement to mount Kitten for the first race.


(I’m not sure what I was laughing at, but I was definitely having a great time.)

I’ve ridden this carousel before but I don’t remember it ever going so fast. There was an actual race caller speaking a mile a minute as the horses went round and round. We slowly coasted to a halt and the horse that crossed the finish line (that is, stopped directly in front of the finish point) was… 

I felt just like I had grabbed the brass ring again!

I was surprised when they called me over to the podium and handed me an envelope. I had no idea the jockeys got prizes too.

Paragon Pass

I guess I’ll be going to Nantasket Beach more often this summer!

We partook of the array of finger foods and substantial tacos from the South Shore Taco Guy truck out front (whose horse won one of the races), admired the outrageous hats of some of the guests, were photographed by the local press, and generally had fun. I rode one of the unsponsored fourth row jumpers in another race, which was a delight.

When they called for the last race, I was back on Kitten. Because of something Scratch said earlier, I decided to ride sidesaddle. The full skirt of my dress draped much more attractively over the side of the horse than bunched up whilst riding astride. The newspaper photographer took a bunch of pictures while waiting for the race to start, like this one, that appeared in the Hull Times.

hull times

(Photo by Skip Tull)

It was a lovely evening! 

Any other carousel enthusiasts out there? Which one is your favorite?

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