Where else can one wear a giant hat or a bow tie, join friends for yard games and sample bourbon in a laid-back, afternoon setting?
That question is one that Alicia Agent poses to friends, co-workers and strangers alike when promoting the Junior League of Fort Smith's second annual Day at the Derby fundraiser.
"I think there are a lot of fundraisers in Fort Smith, but there are none like this," said Agent, a communications vice president for the Junior League's board of directors. "You get to be in the historic part of Fort Smith, and it's not just dinner and it's not just dancing. You get to dress up in what I call 'My Fair Lady'-style clothes, and you get to enjoy the afternoon with friends."
Set to raise money for the Junior League's programs that support area foster children and foster families, the Day at the Derby will be held from 2-7 p.m. May 5 at the Clayton House, 514 N. Sixth St., and will feature a Kentucky Derby watch party, prizes, bourbon-tasting sessions, yard games and more, she said.
"It's earlier in the day, so that's another fun thing that makes Day at the Derby different," Agent said.
Also on tap to raise the levels of fun and excitement will be a silent auction, a "mobile unit" from Sodie's Wine and Spirits and a pie truck from Pie Scout, said Agent.
"We have a lot of neat silent auction items like a Magnolia Foundation package that includes one autographed book from Chip and Joanna Gaines, a $100 gift certificate to Magnolia Market and one tour for eight people at the Silos in Waco, Texas," she said.
Also up for chance is a necklace from Newton's Jewelers that is "worth $3,195," as well as a custom-built doll house valued at $1,500, Agent said.
Day at the Derby also will benefit from the presence of derby-style food and mint julep drinks, said Ashleigh Buckley, event chairwoman.
"Because last year was our first year to have the event, we are trying to make the event well-known in the community now," she said. "Last year, my husband and I went as guests — I wasn't even on the board then — and it was fun. We had such a blast.
"There's so much going on throughout the day, and we're trying to raise as much money as possible," Buckley added. "Our goal would be to raise $10,000."
Proceeds from Day at the Derby will benefit Junior League's programs that support area foster children and foster parents. These programs and projects include a monthly Skills for Life class and an ongoing Foster Parent Night Out sessions, Agent said.
"We may have 30 to 45 teens in foster care from our area, and the (Skills for Life instructors) will go over different things like how to apply for a scholarship, how to apply for a job, dental hygiene and more," she said. "Without fundraising funds, we couldn't do things like these programs."
"Sebastian County is one of the highest areas in the country regarding the foster-care crisis," she said. "At the last count, there were over 700 children in foster care in Sebastian County, and we're not even close to having enough foster homes.
"Several years ago, we at the Junior League directed our focus to help foster children and to help recruit foster families," Buckley added. "We approved a new project that will begin in the fall. It's a scholarship fund for teens in foster care to give them hope."
State funds that are offered to help foster children wishing to go to college "aren't enough" to have maximum financial impact, she said.
"We found out that state funds aren't enough to cover room, board and tuition for the students," Buckley said. "We wanted to help students so they don't have to take on several jobs. We want the students to focus on school."
Agent praised Buckley's recent efforts of planning for the Day at the Derby.
"We couldn't be more proud of Ashleigh; she has been a rock star planning this event, selling tickets and working with the venue," Agent said. "The Clayton House will be a great venue for the Day at the Derby."
Tickets are $35 and $40 for food only and $50 for food and unlimited alcoholic beverages. Tickets can be purchased at www.jlfs.org and www.eventbrite.com.
"I don't think the organizers will have any trouble raising money from the Day at the Derby this year," Agent said. "They've already sold out of the VIP tables. This event will be a blast."
Buckley also predicted Day at the Derby will create many smiles.
"There's no real dress code for this, but we are inviting people to come in traditional derby attire if they wish," she said. "Big hats and bow ties are fun, and really, the bigger and more colorful, the better."