Winner’s Circle

Ballantyne resident honored for horse race-inspired hats

By Jodi Werner Greenwald | Photo by Ray Sepesy

Diana “Peaches” May loves animals — and hats. As volunteer programs manager at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, she oversees the Canine Crew, the airport’s therapy dog program. For fun, she makes fascinator hats to wear to horse races. A hat Peaches created last year is now on exhibit at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. She also won first place in the women’s hat contest at the 2019 Queen’s Cup Steeplechase in Mineral Springs. We have lightly edited her responses for clarity and brevity.

Why hats?

My friends and I love to tailgate and participate in hat contests. I start in January. That’s about the time the smack talk starts — on social media, in texts and face to face. My husband has his fantasy football league, and I’ve got my hat contest.

When did you become interested in the Derby?

My husband is from upstate New York, outside of Saratoga Springs, which is known for its horse racing events in August. He grew up loving horses and racing and got me into the sport. Attending the Kentucky Derby has been on our bucket list for several years, and we decided 2019 (the 145th running) was our year to go, rain or shine. Well, it rained. All day long.

Tell us more about the Derby hat.

It took me a week to make sitting at my dining room table after work, using supplies from a local toy and craft store. The focus is on the horse, with references to the competition (trophy), tradition (rose garland) and fashion (checkered blanket that complemented my red and black dress). A wooden backdrop represents the paddock, and a crown of petite red roses completes the look. Smaller but heavier than most hats, it traveled well within the confines of my purse.

When did you find out you had won?

The Kentucky Derby Museum contacted me mid-June. My fascinator was selected as one of 20 from 60 entries. I display the formal letter and certificate in my home office. Sometimes the hats are just as important as the horses, so it is a real honor to be included in the Winner’s Circle. Pun intended.

Anything else to share?

I like my hats to have some whimsy and match my outfit. Big doesn’t equate to pretty or wearable. You don’t want to sprain a vertebra in your neck because your hat is too heavy. (This happened to a friend of mine — I told you, we are competitive!) You also don’t want your hat to fall apart before the judging.

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