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Historic Brooksville Woman’s Club hosts Kentucky Derby fundraiser for clubhouse renovations

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One classic tradition deserves another. On Saturday, May 6th, from 5 PM—8 PM, the 2023 running of the Kentucky Derby will be marked in grand fashion at the Brooksville Woman’s Club, 131 So. Main St. in Brooksville. As guests enjoy the thrill of the race, the flavor of good foods and drinks, and the glamor of sparkling decorations and prizes, they’ll be supporting the beautiful venue that has hosted this and many other memory-making festivities here in Hernando County.

The GWFC Historic Brooksville Woman’s Club, a member of the General Federation of Woman’s Clubs, has served the Hernando County community since 1910–carrying on the tradition and carrying out the mission of “Unity in Diversity,” focusing on Education, Conservation, Home Life, Arts, and Public Affairs in its many events and activities. And its meetings and events, along with many community happenings, have been conducted in a building that has become a Hernando landmark.

“The Brooksville Woman’s Club was founded in 1910, and our Clubhouse was built in 1931 from the sales of sweet potatoes that the members grew on the lot they purchased,” explained DeeVon Quirolo, GFWC Historic Brooksville Woman’s Club, 2nd VP Fundraising, and the daughter of a winning Kentucky Derby jockey. “It is part of the largest nondenominational woman’s volunteer organization in the world and was founded by suffragettes in New York at the turn of the century.”

Now this classic clubhouse, which has hosted everything from large-scale community events to private celebrations such as weddings, is in need of renovations to its kitchen area.
“The Woman’s Club is the oldest building in Hernando County still being used for its original purpose,” said Natalie Kahler, vice president of the Brooksville Woman’s Club. “In order to keep serving the community, we need community support to renovate our kitchen.”
To this end, proceeds from the club’s Kentucky Derby Party will benefit a major structural renovation project set to replace plumbing, counters, doors, and other features of the clubhouse kitchen.
“The GFWC Historic Brooksville Woman’s Club is hosting a Kentucky Derby Party on May 6th to raise funds for the renovation of the historic Clubhouse kitchen,” said Quirolo.
The race is on at 5 p.m., when Mint Juleps, finger foods, and mocktails will be served. At 7 p.m., the Kentucky Derby Race will be live-streamed on the big screen.

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As a part of a fun faux betting activity, prizes will be awarded for win, place, and show.
“You will be on your way down the backstretch to food, racing, bourbon, mint juleps, mocktails, and fun with your best friends!” read an event notice. “At the clubhouse, stewards will accept faux bets on the winning horse. Win, place, or show winners get prizes with the purse going to the Brooksville Woman’s Club Kitchen Renovation Fund.”

As an additional fund-raiser, the club is selling decorative Derby hats for women, all of which were lovingly handmade by artist and Kentucky Derby fan Terri Michaud, who earlier this year was recognized as Best in Show in the Brooksville Woman’s Club Art Show.
“I made about 30 hats,” she said. “I used silk flowers, ribbons, anything I could find to make the hats special for the Derby.”

And it’s all to help an organization that has helped so many. Historic Brooksville Woman’s Club has supported causes such as Crescent Center Women’s Cancer Clinic, Canine Companions for Independence, Habitat for Humanity, Hacienda Girls Ranch, HOBY, Bogg Creek, Sew Much Comfort, Special Olympics, LEADS and Pasco Hernando State College Scholarships in addition to donating food to the homeless.

“The Woman’s Club helped to bring libraries to Hernando County and always has been involved in the Blueberry Festival,” said Kahler. “And Lena Hawkins, the first female mayor of Brooksville, was a Brooksville Woman’s Club president. Many Brooksville residents often find that many of their mothers and grandmothers belonged to the club.”

It was, in fact, a women’s history project that first brought Kahler to the Woman’s Club when she researched prominent women in Hernando history in preparation for Women’s History Month.
“I fell in love with the club,” she said.

It seems fitting that a celebration of the Kentucky Derby, the longest-running sporting event in the United States that traces its origins back to 1875, will stand to benefit a traditional institution such as the Brooksville Woman’s Club. And a Woman’s Club officer, DeeVon Quirolo, is the proud daughter of a jockey, Don Meade, who won the Derby in 1931.
“I come from a family of horse people,” she said.

For more information about the Kentucky Derby Party at the Brooksville Woman’s Club, call 352-277-3330 or email [email protected]. Tickets are $35 per person. Reserve here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/brooksville-womans-club-kentucky-derby-party-tickets-567328784667. In addition, sponsors still are being sought for this event.

“Grab the reins and plan to cross the finish line with us at the big race on May 6th,” read the event notice.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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