The distorted melodies of the band bouncing off marble walls guided us to the Sprint Festival Plaza (the space across from Union Café -- and how obnoxious is that name for it?). The flock of tube tops that brushed past us as we waited to buy tickets seemed like a harbinger of doom. "I have a bad feeling about this," Research Assistant Cat muttered. "I don't know why." The acoustics sucked, but the station was a beautiful place for a gathering, and things started looking up a bit once we entered and were greeted by waiters toting trays of mint juleps. Served in small, plastic cups that were a little larger than shot glasses, the juleps tasted more like sugar water than mint or bourbon, but we still liked it and immediately downed two. Food tables with a variety of tasty snacks (including meatballs in barbecue sauce, fruit trays, petit fours and hummus) were scattered about. The best part of the night, though, were the multiple bars displaying a phalanx of liquor bottles. We got scotch and water, hovered at a table as we snarfed our food and listened to some cock-knocks prattle on frattishly. In a corner, prederby footage was showing on a ginormous screen.
The organizers had bragged that there were 1,700 people at last year's annual party. There was no way 1,700 people attended this year. Granted, the hall was rather large, our crowd-estimating skills are rather shaky and we were fairly lit, but the crowd felt sparse -- we were thinking a couple hundred at most.
It was a well-dressed group; the chicks had embraced the theme by donning huge-ass hats and strapless dresses with A-line skirts and heels. ("All the girls here are a poor man's Paris Hilton," Cat said. "It's sorta hilarious, though. It's very young guys with very old girls who look like they were rode hard and put away wet.") Many guys were Great Gatsby-ed out in seersucker or plaid jackets, white shoes and bow ties. Because of the outfits, it felt like we were at a country club. That classist impression was reinforced by the fact that in our random sampling of the group, most of the people we talked to were friends with the organizers.
Our crowd-gazing ways were soon interrupted by the staccato beat of snare drums announcing the arrival of the Marching Cobras, who performed for about 20 minutes as the Big Hats jumped up and down and shrieked, "Wooo!" Now, we absolutely love the Marching Cobras, but one Smartass Jones was troubled by their appearance. "Oh. My. God. It's like, here come the black people to entertain us," Jones said. "How inappropriate is it that we're at a Kentucky Derby party with the white people standing around and drinking? I think I'm the only one who found that highly inappropriate."
Immediately afterward, the 11-piece band broke into "Hot in Herre," which was somewhat amusing. We gleefully watched as a tall guy in a plaid jacket danced around goofily. "Nobody puts Plaid Jacket in a corner!" Cat cheered. Plaid Jacket, who was appropriately named F. Scot, had flown in for the weekend from New York City because, of course, he was friends with the organizers. And the organizers, speaking of cornering, accosted the NR once she pulled her notebook out.
"Please be nice to us," one said as he went on a drunken spiel about how Union Station needed all the support it could get. Hey, guy, we know. We're on the faux board, remember? "You're a Pembroke girl," he added. The NR wasn't sure what that had to do with anything, but she felt an implication of you're one of us, which was vastly insulting.
By then, it was after 11 and the festivities were dying down. "I had a good time," Cat admitted, as we stumbled in the Habitrail that linked the station to our destination in Crown Center. "Danced with Plaid Jacket, who was hitting on me -- but of course he lives in New York."
And, we somehow made it through the night without asking random guys if they were hung like a horse. Damn it.