Sunday, May 05, 2002

Derby infield slightly tamer this year

Security cut down on the contraband

By Jim Hannah,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LOUISVILLE — It's still not a place J.J. Nelson would invite his grandmother, but tighter security measures made Churchill Down's infield a milder place this Derby Day.

        “It's a little tamer this year,” said Mr. Nelson, 28, of Indianapolis.

        “There are usually more people here, more alcohol flowing.”

        Unprecedented security precautions, stemming from 9-11, prevented people from bringing in coolers or containers of any kind.

        Every vehicle entering the track was searched for bombs, and everyone was swiped with hand-held metal detectors.

        Long lines at security checkpoints didn't materialize as some had predicted, but Derby veterans said the crowd seemed to be lighter this year.

        The official attendance was 145,033, down from last year's more than 154,000. The number of people cited or arrested was not immediately available.

        “Despite the tamer atmosphere, I'm having a good time,” said Mr. Nelson's friend, Randy Mickle, 22, of Durham, N.C.

        “You have to come. It's the Derby, and its only once a year.”

        The ban on coolers and containers made it harder for partyers to sneak in alcohol, putting an end to much of the alcohol-induced debauchery for which the infield has become famous.

        “I have to tell you, one of the fun things about the infield is trying to sneak liquor in,” said Judith Hart, 31, of Louisville. “That's almost a dead art now. In the past, we have used some ingenious methods to get liquor in here.”

        Some of her smuggling methods included stuffing liquor inside hollowed loaves of bread, packing beer cans in the middle of 12-packs of pop, and lining the inside of fake leg casts with alcohol.

        “The old standby has always been to pad your bra with ZipLock bags of liquor,” Ms. Hart said. “They never pat down a woman's chest. I guess they just think all Kentucky women are incredibly endowed.”

        While most didn't even try to smuggle alcohol inside, some saw the added security as a challenge, using Ms. Hart's “old standby” to smuggle everything from Southern Comfort to Mad Dog. Men duct-taped bottles of bourbon to the inside of their legs and went though check points staffed by women security guards.

        To accommodate fans, who this year were prohibited from bringing in most food, drinks and other party supplies, two general stores were set up at each end of the infield. The stores sold much of what you might find at a well-stocked convenience store for retail prices.

        It was stocked with 180,000 bottles of water, the same amount of pop, and fruit, sandwiches, coolers and ice.

        “This store is great,” said Kathy Kaminski, 40, of Springboro. “It didn't take me long at all to buy lunch. I stand in line longer at Kroger.”

        She likes the less-rowdy infield, adding that she felt comfortable bringing her 16-year-old son.

        “This isn't the infield of the '70s that I remember,” she said. “There are no streakers today.”


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