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Derby Party give kids a chance to be Rams

May 8, 2013
By Tony Phifer

How do you turn a simple party in the park into the social event of the year? Simple: Mix a lot of hats, a lot of friends, a passion for education, love for a deceased friend and a lot of CSU pride.

Denver Derby

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The 12th annual Derby Party at the Denver Performing Arts Complex draws nearly 5,000 attendees.

Women's hats come in all shapes, sizes and colors at the annual Derby Party.

The Stroud sisters pose with Derby Party committee members after being announced as scholarship winners.

Hats - even for the men - are a big part of the annual Derby Party.

Although the Derby Party is known as one of Denver's biggest social events, attendees do take time out to watch the Kentucky Derby on big-screen TVs.

The Stroud sisters, who attend Denver South High School, were announced as winners of the Sean "Ranch" Lough Memorial Scholarship.

Party-goers are happy to show off their traditional Kentucky Derby Attire.

The Derby Party includes food, drinks and lots of fun for thousands - all to support scholarships for first-generation students to attend CSU.


The result of that formula is the annual Denver Derby Party, held each year on the first Saturday in May. The party celebrates the Kentucky Derby and gives a group of CSU friends a chance to honor the memory of fellow alum Sean “Ranch” Lough, who died in 2001 in a mountain biking accident.

“We had done some parties in the past, combined forces and turned those into fundraisers,” said Terrance Hunt, a 1994 CSU alum and one of the event’s founders. “The last time I saw Ranch was at the Derby, so it made sense to have a party in the spring with a Derby theme to honor him.”

Humble beginnings

The first party in 2002 included 150 friends gathered at Denver’s Washington Park. They raised funds for an endowment by passing a jug for donations.

Hunt and a group of 10 to 12 committee members laugh now when thinking about the first party. This year’s event, held at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, drew nearly 5,000 attendees dressed in traditional Derby attire: decorative hats and dresses for the women, spring suits, bow ties and hats for the men. It is the largest Derby party outside the race itself, and one of Denver’s largest social events.

“It’s become an entity unto itself,” Hunt said. “No one takes a salary or takes home a dime. Everyone involved went to CSU, and all of us were friends with Sean. His family is really passionate about education, and we wanted to do something to honor his memory.”

Honoring 'Ranch'

Over the years, the group formed a foundation that has raised enough money to fund 14 four-year, full-ride scholarships – the Sean “Ranch” Lough Memorial Scholarship – to CSU. Hunt said the scholarship committee targets high-achieving, minority, first-generation students from inner-city Denver.

This year, the committee announced Magdalena Stroud as winner of the scholarship. Then, in a surprise, the committee announced that Allegra Stroud, Magdalena’s sister, would receive a two-year scholarship at CSU.

Important work

“We do this in memory of Sean, but it’s become more than that,” Hunt said. “If you help first-generation kids get an education you can really change the course of a family. That’s incredibly gratifying.

“What we’ve found is that these kids not only benefit from the education but the life lessons CSU provides. A lot of these kids have never left the Denver area. By the time they graduate they never want to leave Fort Collins and CSU.”