Every year since Old Friends first moved to Georgetown, it has hosted a Homecoming event the day after the Kentucky Derby. That is, except for last year when the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly hit, making it nearly impossible for groups to gather. But with more people getting vaccinated, the event is back on this Sunday afternoon.
The thoroughbred retirement facility will be hosting its 16th annual Homecoming event from Noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. However, this year’s event being dubbed Homecoming “Lite” due to the continued precautions being taken in the wake of COVID-19.
“We had to cut everything back,” said Michael Blowen, president of the Old Friends Board of Directors. “We usually have music. We usually have food. But we’re having none of that. Country Boy’s given us some beer. We’ve got a big tent out front so we can practice social distancing. We were just kind of scrambling around because we want to do something but we want to make sure everything’s done within the rules.”
A major change is with the traditional silent and live auctions. Rather than that, the event will feature and art tent consisting of fine-art photography, framed prints and pottery, all of which will be for sale.
Only 125 prepaid guests will be permitted at this year’s event in order to stay within social distancing guidelines. But Blowen said he thinks this is Old Friends’ first steps toward returning to normalcy.
“We didn’t do anything last year,” he said. “Of course, they moved the Derby with everything going on, and we didn’t do anything. We usually have our memorial service in May and all of that, but we couldn’t do that either. We’re slowly building it back up again, and this is he first step in that direction. We survived. We played by all the rules, we did everything the way that we’re supposed to do it, and we’ve been able to pull through. Now that we’re slowly reopening for tours, the future looks really bright.”
More so, Blowen said he hopes this event serves as a thank you to the donors who supported Old Friends farm throughout a difficult and unprecedented year.
“Our donors have been very helpful,” he said. “They have really stepped it up a lot and helped us get through all this. It just shows how loyal they are. I’m not talking about just the big ones either. I’m talking about the ones that will send us $4.25 for a bale of hay. The people have been so faithful and so generous that we’ve been able to get through all of this despite the fact that we haven’t had any visitors.”
Limited in-person tours just resumed on April 1, and Blowen said between that and this upcoming event, he can sense that the passionate fans of the farm are eager to come back out to visit the horses.
“You can sense that people are really starting to come back and have some fun and see all these great old horses,” he said.
Old Friends is home to Kentucky Derby winner Silver Charm, who Blowen said just turned 27 this year. Unfortunately, the farm recently lost two previous winners, Charismatic and War Emblem. But Silver Charm, as all as some of the farm’s other notable horses, will be out in full for the event as well.
“They’ll be able to see the horses, feed them carrots,” Blowen said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s going to be fun for me and certainly the horses to have all the people back, I’ll tell you that much.”
Despite the pandemic, Old Friends still saw the acquisition of 20 new horses to its farm over the last year, Blowen said. He added that all of the staff at the farm has been fully vaccinated and cooperating with state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
“Everybody at the farm’s been vaccinated, and I’m really proud of everybody at the farm for following the governor’s protocols,” Blowen said. “I just really want to thank everybody for being so helpful during this period. People in Georgetown and Scott County have been so fabulous. I just want to thank the community for their support through all these years. It’s appreciated, especially by the horses.”
All proceeds from the event will go directly back into Old Friends farm and the horses, Blowen said.
A handful of tickets are still available for purchase for Sunday’s event. Tickets may be purchased for $25 by calling Old Friends at 502-863-1775 or online at www.oldfriendsequine.org. No tickets will be available at the door. Children under 10 are not permitted. No food will be served, but drinks will be available.
Kyle Woosley can be reached at email@example.com.