A winning connection

La Grange’s Broecker
helps orchestrate 2005 Fillies Ball

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(May 2005) - The success of the Kentucky Derby Festival depends heavily on a dedicated group of ladies known as The Fillies. This year, Oldham County’s own Mary Broecker helped coordinate the court of princesses. The Queen and her court will reign over 70 festival events as well as the Kentucky Derby and appear in the Winner’s Circle on race day with Willard Scott of NBC’s “Today Show.”

Mary Broecker, Laura Wills and Hollye Clark

Photo by Jamie Rhodes,
Official Ky. Derby Festival photographer

Fillies Ball chairwoman Mary Broecker of La Grange, Ky., poses with Derby princesses (from left) Laura Wills of Shelbyville and Hollye Clark of Simpsonville at the April 22 ball.

A Fillie since 1969, Broecker said she has previously been elected secretary and served on the board of directors for two years. Originally from Owensboro, Ky., Broecker married her husband, Kurt, in 1964 and the couple decided they both wanted to live on a farm. They chose Oldham County and moved there in 1967.
As a child, Broecker showed saddlebreds. The Broeckers have raised horses more for pleasure than for show. They have trained saddlebreds, quarterhorses, walking horses and miniature ponies, so it is only natural that Broecker has become involved with a group that promotes the horse industry.
“There has been a lot more happenings because of it being the 50th year (of the festival), ” Broecker said.
Mike E. Berry, the Kentucky Derby Festival vice president and CEO, said, “The Fillies provide volunteers that are vital to our success.”
At the Fillies’ Derby Ball on April 22 at the Galt House Hotel & Suites, Brittany Carpenter was named this year’s queen by the traditional spin of the wheel, which Broecker performed. Last year’s Queen, Maria Maldonado, also participated in the event, which drew 870 people.
The Fillies Inc. is a 250-member volunteer club that provides their services to the Kentucky Derby Festival. Related activities include crowning the Derby Queen, selling Pegasus pins, and designing, building and staffing a float for the annual Republic Bank Pegasus Parade that carries the Queen and her Court.
“The Kentucky Derby Festival relies on The Fillies to provide the manpower for several important projects each year,” said Berry.

Mary Broecker

Photo by Jamie Rhodes

Mary Broecker addresses the Fillies Ball on April 22.

Frances Askew Davis founded the 17-member Fillies Club in 1959 to provide a lavish ball as a backdrop for the coronation of the Kentucky Derby Queen and her court. The club grew so fast that it was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in 1971.
Martha Layne Collins was crowned the first Derby Queen in 1959. She is now Honorary Co-Chair of the Kentucky Derby Festival’s 50th Celebration. She shares this title with Jack Guthrie, executive vice president and CEO of the Derby Festival in the 1970s.
“She has always been involved with the festival,” said Aimee Boyd, Communications Manager for the festival. Collins was the first governor of Kentucky to invite the festival’s Board of Directors to the Governor’s Mansion for a luncheon, a tradition that continues today.
The Derby Festival Princess Program “is not just a beauty contest,” said Boyd. The Fillies “seek young women who are poised and outstanding in their community and have knowledge of current events and the Kentucky Derby Festival.”
Each princess receives two $500 scholarships. One is given by The Fillies and the other by the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation.
At the time of its creation by Davis, there were three main rules to obey: all ladies must work on the Ball, further the fame of Kentucky and place a $2 bet on any filly entered in the Derby.
The Ball Committee alone has 80 people on it, said Broecker. Members volunteer to plan an agenda that includes food, favors, a live band and mailing out invitations. The Ball is open to the general public, not just those who receive an invitation.
Guests at the first ball held in 1957 were served cocktails and a gourmet dinner. But there was an even earlier version of The Fillies Derby Ball in the 1920s at the Seelback Hotel.
“The Ball serves as a fund raiser for the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation, the charitable arm of the Festival,” said Berry. Last year, $36,000 was raised for charities.
Broecker feels fortunate to have been president of The Fillies this year. She has been part of an hour-long special about the Derby Festival produced by KET.
Broecker is involved in programs within her own community. She serves on the Project Guild, Oldham County Arts Association, the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce, Oldham County YMCA, Education Foundation and has been a previous Oldham Countian of the Year, so named by the chamber.
The Fillies also create the Official Program for the Kentucky Derby, said Broecker. Over 40,000 copies are distributed to airlines, hotels and various tourism venues. Members correlate advertising, articles and pictures to produce a visual image of the Kentucky Derby.
For all of their hard work and long hours, no member of The Fillies complains. “The Derby is such a fun time,” said Broecker. “No body minds the work.”

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