Stylish fun at HOPE Foundation's “A Touch of Derby Days”


Wayne and Diana Weiser dressed in full Kentucky Derby fashion.

Supporters of Hononegah Community High School's HOPE Foundation were off to the races the evening of Saturday, April 6, 2024 where “A Touch of Derby Days” came to life at the Rockton American Center.

An evening of fun included dinner, raffles, a silent auction, music by the Zac Matthews Band, accompanied by dancing, all incorporating the history and traditions of the Kentucky Derby.

Kelly Rosik stayed on track as the event coordinator.

HOPE Vice President Tom Polaski welcomed everyone to the event before presenting an award to Andy Gannon, who once again kept the action rolling as the emcee.

“This person gives back to the community... Every year he has served and supported the HOPE Foundation by emceeing Touch of Spring events,” Polaski said.

Gannon was the second person to receive this well deserved recognition.

Mr. Polaski asked that the Foundation members stand to be recognized. Serving on The H.O.P.E Foundation is Board President Tiffany Warren, Vice President Tom Polaski, Treasurer Brian Barnhardt, Secretary Hannah Schoenberg and trustees Cathy Bellich, Ray Ferguson, Chuck Gilbert, Nic Haab, Patrick Hoey, Nicole Johnson, Nick Kloster, and Bonnie Gundry.

Prior to dinner, board member and 1982 HCHS alumni Pat Hoey gave the invocation. Hoey highlighted reasons behind the fundraiser, most importantly, supporting education.

Each table had a specific racing horse name assigned to it and was decorated with a white horse head statue, and other theme related decor.

Keeping the spirit of the races alive, ladies wore dresses with matching Fascinator hats. Men donned brightly multi-colored or matching suits. Some added either a classic Panama hat, a dapper fedora or a unique bowler hat to their outfit.

The Kentucky Derby was started by Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of William Clark, half of the famous explorer duo Lewis and Clark. The first Derby on May 17, 1875 had  an estimated crowd of 10,000 people. A field of 15 horses contested in the first Derby.

Only three horses ran in the 1892 Derby and 1905 races. The historic one-and-a-quarter-mile race was originally set at one-and-a-the half-miles, with the current distance being implemented in 1896.

The traditional drink of the Derby is a mint julep. Statistics show that over 120,000 julepd have been consumed at the race each year.

Churchill Downs founder and president Col. M. Lewis Clark made the rose the official flower of the race after attending an 1883 post Derby party where socialite E. Berry Wall was handing these to all of the ladies in attendance.

Only three year old horses are allowed to compete. Secretariat remains the fastest horse in Kentucky Derby history. His record time in 1973 of 1:59.40 has never been broken. Only three fillies (female horses) have won the Derby.

The current purse for the Derby is $3 million dollars, with the winner taking home $1.86 million. Second place wins $600,000, third place $300,000, fourth place $150,000 and $90,000 for fifth.

This year marked the 22 year of HOPE Foundation fundraisers, with its own purse of different cash prizes, on a much smaller scale than the Derby.

One fifty-fifty raffle brought in $950, and another was in the amount of $760. Some took a chance on winning a horse trough that booze sat on, sitting by two wooden display barrels.

Near the end of the event, four $500 winners and one $2,000 winner were announced.

The Rock of Rockton Ring Raffle featured a custom designed ring created by Shelly Schweigart and her staff at the Gem Shop & Diamond Source.

The ring was designed in the shape of a horseshoe to fit the Derby theme, in 14k gold. It has a .70 total carats of diamonds, and a retail value of $4,000.

Monies raised from this annual raffle go toward funding a scholarship in memory of Jan Modersohn who served as Rockton Village Clerk from 1991-2009. Modersohn was a true advocate for area youth. This scholarship amount has increased from the original of $500 to $1,000.

Quality items filled a silent auction, one of which was two Adirondack chairs artistically detailed by talented hands of students in the HCHS Creative Endeavors art club.

Special thanks were given to Scott Robinson, Katie Tallman, Jennifer Osorio, Jessica Barton, Anna Cuthbertson, Kristie Clark, Kristi Hyde, and Liz Gleason for helping with various portions of the event.

The Hope Foundation first came into being in 1997 under the direction of then Superintendent Ralph Marshall.

Some of the ways the HOPE Foundation has supported community and educational needs: a heritage mural, tutorial programs, teacher grants, funded annual program giving more than $70,000.00 in the past 10 years, student scholarships, a purchase of two AED’s for the athletic department, retractable batting cages, a 2014 renovation feasibility study, graphic calculators for the math department, laptops for the physics department, a new video scoreboard for the field house, digital training for the physical education department, new trophy cases, power tools for the wood shop and construction lab, $25,000 towards new digital scoreboards, new trophy cases and the purchase of a 40 acre tract of land for future use.

Last year “A Touch of Caddyshack” added over $13,000 to the Foundation's programs and endowment fund.

During HCHS's 2022's 100th year celebration and Homecoming, the H.O.P.E Foundation helped to reunite alumni at a “Feast on the Field” tailgate party.

Red Barn Golf Course is showing appreciation to donors and sponsors of the foundation on June 9 at 6 p.m. They are offering complimentary Top Tracer, food and beverages and fun.

Plans are underway for next year's HOPE Foundation event, “Touch of the Tropics.

The Zac Matthews Band entertained the crowd at the H.O.P.E Foundation's Touch of Derby Days.
John and Sheryl Peterson met up with Pat and Beth (Rife) Hoey.
Friends came together at Hononegah Community H.O.P.E Foundation's "Touch of Derby Days" event on Saturday evening, April 6, 2024.
Ladies pictured in the center wore t-shirts with the words, "Derby Days" while other friends opted for more formal attire.
HCHS Art teacher Arra VanGalder had fun with fellow teachers Jenny Decker and Cari Vanderheyden at the "Touch of Derby Days."
More News from Rockton
I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified