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New Kentucky Horse Park & Museum exhibit remembers famous madden Derby eve parties

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Posted at 5:14 PM, May 06, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX18) — This Derby Eve, many people are out at the Kentucky Horse Park and Museum seeing past derby winners and learning more about the history.

Well, this year museum leaders wanted to honor and celebrate the derby in a different way remembering one of the biggest derby eve parties in Lexington -- hosted by Preston and Anita Madden.

It was a Derby Eve tradition in Lexington for decades. A party so big, so elaborate, that even to this day people who attended say, "It was all over the top. Imagine the most glamorous party that you've ever been to and add a who bunch on top of that and that was Anita’s,” remembers WVLK radio personality, Jack Pattie.

After parodying the party on his show, years ago, he got an invite from the hostess Anita Madden herself. Local media regularly covered the event -- including LEX18 news. Pattie describes the atmosphere, he says, “Valet parking, everything first class. Red carpet, photographers just like a big Hollywood gala would be. Depended on the theme and in any given year they had a theme every year and it was the most lavishly decorated party that you could possibly imagine. They had people on swings hanging from the ceiling."

Leaders and attendees that went to these madden events agreed that it was more than just a party here in Lexington -- but a great opportunity to give back to this community, donating proceeds to organizations like the Bluegrass Boys Ranch Scholarship. A scholarship that funded education for underprivileged children.

The Kentucky Horse Park & Museum’s Executive Director, Lee Carter, says, "I think she said at one point the ranch needs the money and Lexington needs the party. And this was a great way for her to give back." The Kentucky Horse Park & Museum has some of Anita Madden’s iconic outfits -- on loan from Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Madden in partnership with the Highlands Museum and Discovery Center. This party connected the derby tradition in Louisville and Lexington.

Lee says, "This was always, the madden party was something regardless of where you were in the state of Kentucky, you knew it was happening, you knew what happened in and around the derby and this was again one of those signature events that you wanted to see what took place that night."

Guest included politicians, celebrities, even royalty, and people from the community. We asked Pattie if he thought anyone could ever pull off something like this again, he says, "It would take someone very special."

This community is reliving a part of its Derby Eve history