Kentucky is a different shade of bluegrass this year, to say the least. Sitting here in the Media Center, we’re usually looking out over a bustling trade fair; this year, the indoor is closed up and dark. The first horse inspection is usually standing room only; today, there were only a few folks scattered across the stone terraces. The parking lots and campground are relatively empty, as will be the stands of Rolex Stadium in the coming days. The smiles of those of us lucky enough to be here are hidden by masks.
Things may look different, but the thru-thread of “Kentucky Eve” energy and optimism feels as strong as if not stronger than ever. Since we all last met in this Park two years ago, the world has changed. Who could have known, then, that a deadly virus would wreak havoc around the world, upending our lives in so many unforeseen and previously unimaginable ways. All of us, to varying degrees, have experienced loss, anxiety and grief. We are co-survivors of a shared trauma from which we are only just now beginning to emerge.
I’ve looked forward to this week with mixed emotions. Nothing feels like business as usual. This spring I’ve been struggling to feel connected to the sport after having been apart from it for so long, covering events from a distance that often feels enormous. But driving though the iconic Kentucky Horse Park gates this morning, twilight casting a blue glow on the snowy fields, I felt a familiar stirring. Some long-dormant tenderness fluttered in my chest.
The EN team is well aware that, for so many in our community, watching “The Best Week All Year” on a screen isn’t going to hit the same. We understand the privilege of being here in person, and we take seriously our responsibility to articulate the experience as fully as we can. Remember that we’re not as far apart as we think — the 2021 event’s very existence, thanks to an incredible community-led fundraising effort, is proof of the ties that bind us together and make us strong.
Wherever you are this week, I hope you are able to let a little Kentucky magic in, too.