Chatham's First 'Downtown Derby' Celebrates Spring Saturday

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Business , Chatham Merchants Association , chamber of commerce

CHATHAM – It's Derby time!

Chatham will be off to the races with its first “Downtown Derby” Saturday, May 4, a springtime event that gives a seaside twist to the venerable Kentucky Derby.

Both adults and kids can play the “Seahorse Races” at the Whit Tileston Bandstand at Kate Gould Park, rolling dice to move three-foot-tall seahorses around a track. Chatham Band Director Tom Jahnke will be the race caller, and winners will be awarded gift cards (for the adults) and seahorse lollipops (for the kids).

“We're also encouraging folks who come downtown to wear festive hats,” said Mary Cavanaugh, executive director of the chamber of commerce, which is sponsoring the event along with the Chatham Merchants Association. Those with the most festive hats will be awarded $10 gift cards donated by local merchants.

The event grew out of a conversation among several chamber members and officials during Oktoberfest, Cavanaugh said. In the past the groups sponsored Spring Fling to mark the changing season, and the conversation got around to the Kentucky Derby, which takes place May 4 at the venerable Churchill Downs in Louisville. The idea of a Derby-style spring event coalesced. Steve Wardle of Forest Beach Designer-Goldsmiths suggested seahorses instead of thoroughbreds, and they were off to the races.

The seahorses were crafted by carpentry students at Cape Cod Technical High School and painted by members of the Downtown Derby committee, Cavanaugh said. The students also made large seahorses with jockeys that will decorate the exterior of the bandstand.

Seahorse races will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 2 p.m. Main Street shops will be decorated for spring and many will have Derby-themed specials.

“We're all very excited,” she said. “It's been a great collaboration with the chamber and merchants. We're hoping it takes hold and is something we can do every spring.”

A “Spring into Style” fashion show will kick off the Downtown Derby on Thursday at noon at the Wayside Inn. There will be raffles and gift bags with coupons and other incentives for people to attend Saturday's event. Tickets are $35 and available at the Cape Cod Five, Rockland Trust, Puritan, Sundance Clothing and If The Shoe Fits. The fashion show benefits the Chatham Children's Fund holiday wish list party.