Get your wide-brimmed hats, seersucker suits and tasseled loafers (worn sockless, of course) ready because the inaugural Austin Derby Fest gallops out of the gates on Saturday, May 3.
Organized by Trifecta on 3rd co-owners Justin Hubbert and Mo Burman, the event began in 2011 as a small party at the downtown bourbon bar. Over the course of three years, however, the Southern-inspired shindig outgrew Trifecta’s comfy quarters. So the two took a cue from Fadó Irish Pub’s St. Patrick’s Day street celebration and decided to transform the humble gathering into a full-fledged Austin Derby Fest block party on Nueces Street between Third and Fourth Streets.
The Austin Derby Fest will include the obligatory mint juleps, well-dressed men and women and big-screens televising the 140th running of the “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports.” But the festival capitalizes on Austin culture, too, with live bluegrass and Americana music, food trucks and a variety of libation options for those can’t hang with good Kentucky bourbon.
“We wanted to incorporate everything the Kentucky Derby is about,” Burman says. “Everyone thinks it’s just a horse race, but if you’ve gone and experienced it in Louisville you realize it’s this week-long celebration of food, live music, parties and more. We’re just putting a little Austin flair on it.”
That flair includes local music from primal one-man band, Possessed by Paul James; string band savants, Milkdrive; self-described “trashgrass” standouts, Whiskey Shivers; and Austin-by-way-of-El Paso desert-folkers, The Dirty River Boys. Lone Star legend Ray Wylie Hubbard will add a dollop of classic Texas country during his slot, while Rhode Island rockers Deer Tick will bring their raucous Americana-inflected attack to the headlining spot.
“None of Austin’s many different festivals hit that bluegrass/Americana sweet spot so well,” Burman says. “Everyone seems fired up to listen to a great lineup while getting dressed up in big hats and Southern attire and drinking mint juleps.”
To that end, the inaugural Austin Derby Fest secured sponsorship from iconic bourbon manufacturers Maker’s Mark, which will anchor the many variations on the classic Kentucky Derby drink that Trifecta on 3rd bartenders dream up. Those who don’t sip the hard stuff can sample popular flavors from Hill Country brewery Real Ale. Two local food trucks — Dock and Roll Diner and Lambert’s FoodaPalooza gourmet bus — will anchor the Derby Fest’s cuisine.
While this year’s edition falls on one of the busiest festival weekends in town, Burman and his fellow organizers hope to make the event a staple for years to come. “We’re hoping for success so we can replicate it year after year,” he says. “It’s called the first annual because we absolutely want it to be a long-term event.”
The Austin Derby Fest runs from 1-10 pm on Saturday, May 3 at 360 Nueces. Standard tickets are $20. The $75 VIP package includes exclusive access to Trifecta on 3rd. For more information, visit www.AustinDerbyFest.com.