Right now, the Governor’s Derby Train sleeps quietly on the tracks just outside downtown Frankfort.
But in the morning, it will roar to life, as hundreds of privileged passengers board 17 cars filled with Kentucky’s finest things. Takeoff is 10 a.m. as it heads to Churchill Downs in Louisville.
Local band Stirfry Musette climbed aboard the train this afternoon to set up. They’re strategically stationed in the second to last car where guests Kentucky wants to impress will be seated.
“This is the car for our economic development guests – where we’ll showcase Kentucky’s best,” said Randy Overton, Derby Train coordinator.
Overton loves the sound made by Stirfry Musette – a gypsy jazz band of violin, bass, accordion, guitar, mandolin, percussion and kazoo. Musicians include Frankfort residents Joanna Hay, Jeff Ellis, Ben Griffith and Bill May. Sadly, May’s drums won’t fit, so it’ll just be a trio.
Violinist Hay says Stirfry played on the governor’s train during its last run in 2008, and they’re thrilled to be playing again.
“It’s a great moment when it backs out,” guitarist Ellis said Friday. “It’s a nice easy roll.”
Ellis added, “I’d like for the train to run on a regular basis to give us commoners a chance to ride. We could have some fun, ride up to Louisville for dinner and drinks.”
Hay says takeoff is her favorite moment too.
“It was so fun as we went through Frankfort and saw all our friends waving to us out the windows,” she said.
Accordion and bass player Griffith says their mission is to make people smile. What makes him smile is all the festive dresses and hats that mingle from car to car.
“I love the dresses,” he said.
Passengers are able to walk between the cars as they please, Overton said. Stirfry’s car is one of two Western Maryland cars in the line. It’s old-fashioned with dark wood paneling and other touches reminiscent of the past.
As the train sets out in the morning, table décor will be traditional Derby with red rose centerpieces and white linen, but on the return trip, every car will be transformed by neon runners and neon Gerber daisies.
“As we head to the tracks, it needs to look like Derby,” Overton said. “But at night we get a little more festive – it’s a little more jazzy at night.”
Passengers can expect a long, exciting day. They board starting at 8:30 a.m. and won’t roll back into Frankfort until 11:45 p.m.
After hearing Stirfry rehearse Overton sighed, “I just love that sound. I wish I could just sit and enjoy them tomorrow, but I can’t. I’ll be so busy.”