Nestled on the opposite side of the Kentucky Exposition Center from the giant pumpkins and peppers (that have enough Scoville heat units to start your car), near the health care provider giveaways, fish tanks, paintings, booths for 98 percent of Kentucky state agencies and (finally) foods that only a fairgoer could love is the Kentucky State Fair’s room devoted to history.
There, every year, is a case devoted to Churchill Downs history, which generally is Kentucky Derby history. Most of the entries are predictable – programs, postcards and the like. It’s the one part of the fair I make sure to check each year.
This year’s exhibit had an interesting find – a token from Virginia Switzer that said it entitled the bearer to one free drink at any bar at Churchill Downs. I had to muster everything in my power not to break the glass, proceed a mile west and see if said token still worked, or at least see if Matt Winn put an expiration date on it.
The value, the token said, was 15 cents. Fifteen cents at Churchill today gets you, um, a superfecta and a half. To be fair, adjusted for inflation, the 15 cents today would be about $4.05, which at least gets you a soda.
The token, if you can’t make it out, says: “Hand this to bartender at any bar in the grounds of the track. Value 15 cents Kentucky Derby.”