helps orchestrate 2005 Fillies Ball
Helen E. McKinney
(May 2005) - The success of the Kentucky Derby Festival
depends heavily on a dedicated group of ladies known as The Fillies.
This year, Oldham Countys own Mary Broecker helped coordinate
the court of princesses. The Queen and her court will reign over 70
festival events as well as the Kentucky Derby and appear in the Winners
Circle on race day with Willard Scott of NBCs Today Show.
by Jamie Rhodes,
Official Ky. Derby Festival photographer
Ball chairwoman Mary Broecker of La Grange, Ky., poses with Derby
princesses (from left) Laura Wills of Shelbyville and Hollye Clark
of Simpsonville at the April 22 ball.
A Fillie since 1969, Broecker said she has previously
been elected secretary and served on the board of directors for two
years. Originally from Owensboro, Ky., Broecker married her husband,
Kurt, in 1964 and the couple decided they both wanted to live on a farm.
They chose Oldham County and moved there in 1967.
As a child, Broecker showed saddlebreds. The Broeckers have raised horses
more for pleasure than for show. They have trained saddlebreds, quarterhorses,
walking horses and miniature ponies, so it is only natural that Broecker
has become involved with a group that promotes the horse industry.
There has been a lot more happenings because of it being the 50th
year (of the festival), Broecker said.
Mike E. Berry, the Kentucky Derby Festival vice president and CEO, said,
The Fillies provide volunteers that are vital to our success.
At the Fillies Derby Ball on April 22 at the Galt House Hotel
& Suites, Brittany Carpenter was named this years queen by
the traditional spin of the wheel, which Broecker performed. Last years
Queen, Maria Maldonado, also participated in the event, which drew 870
The Fillies Inc. is a 250-member volunteer club that provides their
services to the Kentucky Derby Festival. Related activities include
crowning the Derby Queen, selling Pegasus pins, and designing, building
and staffing a float for the annual Republic Bank Pegasus Parade that
carries the Queen and her Court.
The Kentucky Derby Festival relies on The Fillies to provide the
manpower for several important projects each year, said Berry.
by Jamie Rhodes
Broecker addresses the Fillies Ball on April 22.
Frances Askew Davis founded the 17-member Fillies Club
in 1959 to provide a lavish ball as a backdrop for the coronation of
the Kentucky Derby Queen and her court. The club grew so fast that it
was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1971.
Martha Layne Collins was crowned the first Derby Queen in 1959. She
is now Honorary Co-Chair of the Kentucky Derby Festivals 50th
Celebration. She shares this title with Jack Guthrie, executive vice
president and CEO of the Derby Festival in the 1970s.
She has always been involved with the festival, said Aimee
Boyd, Communications Manager for the festival. Collins was the first
governor of Kentucky to invite the festivals Board of Directors
to the Governors Mansion for a luncheon, a tradition that continues
The Derby Festival Princess Program is not just a beauty contest,
said Boyd. The Fillies seek young women who are poised and outstanding
in their community and have knowledge of current events and the Kentucky
Each princess receives two $500 scholarships. One is given by The Fillies
and the other by the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation.
At the time of its creation by Davis, there were three main rules to
obey: all ladies must work on the Ball, further the fame of Kentucky
and place a $2 bet on any filly entered in the Derby.
The Ball Committee alone has 80 people on it, said Broecker. Members
volunteer to plan an agenda that includes food, favors, a live band
and mailing out invitations. The Ball is open to the general public,
not just those who receive an invitation.
Guests at the first ball held in 1957 were served cocktails and a gourmet
dinner. But there was an even earlier version of The Fillies Derby Ball
in the 1920s at the Seelback Hotel.
The Ball serves as a fund raiser for the Kentucky Derby Festival
Foundation, the charitable arm of the Festival, said Berry. Last
year, $36,000 was raised for charities.
Broecker feels fortunate to have been president of The Fillies this
year. She has been part of an hour-long special about the Derby Festival
produced by KET.
Broecker is involved in programs within her own community. She serves
on the Project Guild, Oldham County Arts Association, the Oldham County
Chamber of Commerce, Oldham County YMCA, Education Foundation and has
been a previous Oldham Countian of the Year, so named by the chamber.
The Fillies also create the Official Program for the Kentucky Derby,
said Broecker. Over 40,000 copies are distributed to airlines, hotels
and various tourism venues. Members correlate advertising, articles
and pictures to produce a visual image of the Kentucky Derby.
For all of their hard work and long hours, no member of The Fillies
complains. The Derby is such a fun time, said Broecker.
No body minds the work.
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