Monday, May 20, 2024

Sports Illustrated Revel at the Races heats up as newest Kentucky Derby Eve after-party

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You could call it a surprise party. 

Little information was available to the public ahead of the inaugural Sports Illustrated Revel at the Races, which on Friday night joined the field of established and longstanding Kentucky Derby Eve events known for drawing celebrities, athletes, and some of Louisville’s top names ahead of the biggest horse racing event of the year.

Ticket-holders knew about the $1,000 price for entry and that The Chainsmokers, the Grammy Award-winning electronic pop duo, would be performing a late-night show at The Ice House, 226 E. Washington St., in downtown Louisville. But because the party was a first-time thing, they also didn’t know fully what to expect. 

That didn’t stop the high-energy crowd from showing up and showing out, whether their outfits included sparkly dresses, sparkly purple suits or fascinators, cowboy hats or blue jeans. The small red carpet area under a white tent, which was welcome during spouts of heavy rainfall, was complete with a green backdrop showing logos for Maker’s Mark, Jeep, and Sports Illustrated, among others.

DJ Irie and Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall of The Chainsmokers were some of the first to arrive, followed by Sports Illustrated cover model Brooks Nader, social media influencer Alix Earle and Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. While expected guests such as former NFL player Emmitt Smith, former WNBA player Lisa Leslie, and podcaster Alex Cooper didn’t show up, the well-known former NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers brought some surprise factor to the brightly-lit entry area, where media interviews were not allowed. Dozens of other guests used the backdrop as a fun way to start the evening with selfies and group photos.

The big surprise was steps away with the confirmed sight of Travis Kelce hanging out in a VIP area inside the Ice House shortly after midnight. The Kansas City Chiefs tight end, as you might’ve heard, has been scoring big in the fame department as of late in part because he’s one part of the Taylor-and-Travis mega story. Rumors had swirled that Kelce might be accompanied by Swift, but the megastar singer was nowhere to be seen.

Around the same time party-goers noticed Kelce, The Chainsmokers kicked off its set with a mix featuring Swift’s hit, “Our Song.” They also later sampled Swift’s “Mean” and with Jack Harlow’s “Lovin’ On Me,” plus a bunch of crowd favorites like “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers and their collaboration song with Coldplay, “Something Just Like This.”

After the duo’s dance-inducing set at The Ice House was done, another deejay arrived on stage. It was after 2 a.m., and officially Saturday, so he had an announcement: “Let me be the first to tell you. Happy Derby Day.”

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The new Revel at the Races concert coincides with Sports Illustrated’s buzzed-about partnership with Churchill Downs and the racetrack’s new premium hospitality suite, Club SI lounge, which opened this week.

Reach reporter Amanda Hancock at ahancock@courier-journal.com.

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