Kentucky Derby day at the Balboa Bay Club was no mere day at the races.
The Red Ribbon 100, a women's advisory council to the Orange County chapter of the American Red Cross, had teamed up with club management to turn the Newport Beach locale on Saturday into a scene worthy of 19th-Century Churchill Downs.
Southern belles, armed with parasols and race programs, sashayed about the turf club setting, peering out from under brims of picture hats. They sipped mint juleps. They also took special care not to trip over their hoop skirts.
To avoid a mishap, Priscilla Selman, Red Ribbon 100 committee chairman, wore sneakers under her gown. "I figured no one would see them," she said, pointing to her pink Reeboks.
Christy Perricone paired a plumed chapeau with a tiered gown reminiscent of a wedding cake. Her husband, Joe, sported cherub-print suspenders. "It's the first time I've worn suspenders since I was a kid," he said.
Although few men followed the Kentucky colonel dress code, Lou Croatti came dressed Rhett Butler-style, dashing in a ruffled shirt and black Stetson hat.
Bob Fuess, event chairman for the Balboa Bay Club, dressed to herald the horses in red waistcoat, black top hat and boots. He said the official Derby day programs had been flown in from Louisville, making the Balboa Bay Club one of three places outside Kentucky to have them. He said a hotel in Las Vegas and one in San Francisco were the others so blessed.
The gravy that drowned the luncheon biscuits also had been brought by air from Kentucky.
Throughout the day, guests placed bets with faux money and gambled on horse race films shown on big-screen television sets. The highlight, of course, was the showing of the 113th Kentucky Derby.
Guests also were able to pose for keepsake portraits beside a painted backdrop of Churchill Downs or inside a winner's circle that featured a fake horse.
Included on the guest list were Diane Fuess, Andy and Olivia Johnson, Arlene Allen, Karen Reed, Wanda and Ty Cobb, Calvin Nash, Noddie Weltner, Sharon Paisley and Barbara Johnson.