Two UK students named Derby princesses

Marjorie Kirk

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The Kentucky Derby may be months away, but the festivities began Jan. 11 when the Derby Festival Royalty was revealed, and two UK students crowned princesses. 

Psychology junior Millicent Ashley Cahoon and marketing freshman Adrienne Georgann Poole are two of the five princesses that will be the face of Kentucky’s achievement for most of the events that are part of the Kentucky Derby Festival.

In addition to the two princesses, Fillies Inc., a volunteer group that coordinates the program and assists the festival, selected two more UK students, Gabriella Torres and Brooke Elizabeth Hasl to be the alternates if one of the princesses cannot fulfill her duties.

The festival kicks off with the “Thunder Over Louisville” fireworks show, followed by two weeks of food, dance, races and outdoor games.

“If you’re on the court, the first few days is promoting, you go to a lot of interviews and stuff, but leading up to the Derby you have different events that you attend,” Torres said. “All of the big events, the princesses will be at, but the major event that the Fillies do is the Fillies Ball and the Children’s Tea.”

The Fillies Ball is a formal event where the Derby Festival Queen is randomly selected by the spin of a wheel. In addition to attending the ball, most of the princesses said that their favorite events to attend are the Celebrity Night, the Derby and the Children’s Tea.

“At Thunder, they get to go to the actual booth where they set off the fireworks and see it all happen,” Torres said. “They get to go to Derby and Oaks and the Celebrity Night where all the big stars come to town to see what Kentucky and Louisville are all about.”

The two non-profit organizations that coordinate multiple philanthropic events, award $2,000 in scholarship money to the princesses, and have an estimated local economic impact of about $127 million, according to a Fillies Inc. press release.

“It’s a great way to earn scholarship and to act as an ambassador of the Louisville area,” Cahoon said. “I’m looking forward to the Children’s Tea because I feel like that will be the most intimate moment to interact with the young girls and boys, and kids are such a joy to be around that I think it would be the sweetest experience to interact with them in such a fancy, nice setting.”

For many Louisville residents, including Poole, the Derby Festival has been a tradition of their families for much of their lives.

“Ever since I was seven-years-old my dad has been running in the mini-marathon, and every year we’ve been waiting at the finish line, cheering him on,” Poole said. “I think it’s always been a neat experience to see how the spirit of Louisville has really been embodied. Since I’ve been invited so many years to the festival, I am now the one inviting people.”

As each Derby season draws crowds of thousands to see the latest crop of thoroughbreds, this year’s festival is expected to entertain thousands of Louisville’s, Kentucky’s and even Hollywood’s residents.

“Back in 1956 not everyone could attend the Derby, it was just too costly, and that’s the way it is today. So since 1956 the Kentucky Derby Festival has grown so much. We have 1.5 million people attending events all season long,” Poole said. “It doesn’t matter your economic background, your social standing, we welcome everyone.”