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Kentucky Derby comes to Pagosa Springs

By Ming Steen
Special to The PREVIEW

PREVIEW photo/Terri House Rotarian LaQuita Johnson invites you to attend the Kentucky Derby Gala for Pagosa Springs Rotary Club at Keyah Grande on Saturday, May 4. This is the perfect opportunity to dress up, wear hats and sip on mint juleps while being transported to the derby via live telecast.

PREVIEW photo/Terri House
Rotarian LaQuita Johnson invites you to attend the Kentucky Derby Gala for Pagosa Springs Rotary Club at Keyah Grande on Saturday, May 4. This is the perfect opportunity to dress up, wear hats and sip on mint juleps while being transported to the derby via live telecast.

Yes, you read it right:  Pagosa Springs Rotary Club will host the premiere edition of the Kentucky Derby Gala on May 4.

This new and exciting Rotary event will be held at the upscale Keyah Grande Lodge from 2-6 p.m.

Derby attendees will be transported to the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby without ever having to leave Pagosa Springs.  With hooves pounding, mint juleps swirling and Derby attire in full swing, the stage will be set to celebrate an exciting horse race from the mountain beauty of Keyah Grande.

This new Rotary event includes betting, a hat contest, live music, cash bar, delicious food and a great time for all while helping to raise funds to support Rotary’s diverse programs in our community.

The Kentucky Derby Gala is a brainchild of LaQuita Johnson.  LaQuita is a genius at taking a venue and a group of folks and morphing it into a mega party.  This is a skill, not an inherited genius, and I was most curious how one comes by it.

After some probing and arm twisting (LaQuita is not one to talk about herself), I feel I know and understand this incredibly talented woman much better.

As a former hospital chief operating officer and chief executive officer, LaQuita was very active in organizing all aspects of healthcare delivery, as well as the social and public relations aspect of these roles.  Her skills were further honed in a background which included presiding as president of the Chamber of Commerce, organizing events in her former home community.

But, as she sums it up, ”Mostly, I enjoy planning parties and events that people will have a good time at, especially when these events can raise funds to benefit the community.”

The inspiration for this Kentucky Derby Gala is a natural evolution of a past that included hosting many Kentucky Derby parties at her home.  And LaQuita thought it would be a great idea to host one big party as a fund-raiser here in Pagosa for her Rotary Club.

“Also, ladies (including myself) love to dress up, wear hats, sip on mint juleps and the Kentucky Derby is a perfect reason to do just that,” said LaQuita.

LaQuita is no stranger to our community.  She and her husband moved here six years ago and, in this short period of time, LaQuita has been wholeheartedly involved.

“I have the honor of working with a great group of ladies here in Pagosa to organize a fall fashion show with the proceeds going to various non-profits.  The two fashion shows raised $16,000, and we are currently planning the 2013 Fall Fashion Show.  I also assist with the annual banquet for the Pagosa Pregnancy Support Center, provide support and decorations for Pagosa Women’s Club fund raiser in December, and for the Archuleta Education Center’s annual fund-raising luncheon.”

LaQuita is a welcome and valued addition to Pagosa.

I invite you to attend this event.  Allow yourself to be transported to another place (literally as Steve from Mountain Home Sound and Security will have a humongous flat screen installed to telecast the Derby live), and celebrate a historical occasion here in Pagosa with your neighbors and friends.

Fellow Rotarians of talents great and small have been recruited by LaQuita to help.  This is to make sure every detail is done just right.  Come see for yourself.

Tickets are $35 per person and can be purchased at Happy Trails Lady’s Boutique, Goodman’s Department Store and Exit Realty, from any Rotarian and online at www.pagosaspringsrotary.eventbrite.com.

Trivia Question:  Pop vocalist Dan Fogelberg, once a part-time resident of Pagosa Spings, composed a song which was released in time for the 1982 running of the Kentucky Derby.  What was the song?  Look for the answer in next week’s PREVIEW article.

This story was posted on April 11, 2013.