Who doesn’t thrill to the sound of the call to post?

COPE Center Inc., of Montclair, knows that there’s something about watching thoroughbreds give their all to race the Kentucky Derby that thrills the blood.

On Saturday, May 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., COPE will hold a Derby Day celebration at the Montclair Art Museum.

The race is known as “the most exciting two minutes in sports!”

Post time is 6:24, but the party starts at 5.

“I like the Kentucky derby, the pomp and circumstance around it, said COPE Executive Director Sue Seidenfeld. “The tradition.”

The Kentucky Derby was inaugurated in 1875; this year’s race is the 143rd running.

The favorites in the “run for the roses” include Classic Empire and New Jersey’s own Irish War Cry.

COPE, which stands for Counseling, Outreach, Prevention, and Education, provides behavioral healthcare services at affordable prices.

The organization often holds workshops in town: last Saturday, COPE held a workshop titled “Managing Conflict: Keeping Your Cool and Making It a Teachable Moment” at Union Congregational Church. On Tuesday, COPE participated in a panel discussion at Montclair High School titled “Let’s Talk About Drugs and Alcohol,” for parents of teens.

Derby-inspired hors d’oeuvres are on the table at COPE Center Inc.’s Kentucky Derby Day event last year at the Montclair Art Museum. Courtesy Diana Fennelly

The Derby Day celebration, a fundraiser for COPE, includes an open bar, with mint juleps of course, and Southern hors d’oeuvres, such as bourbon balls, said COPE Executive Director Sue Seidenfeld.

And there is a sober bar, too, to support COPE’s mission.

“We have staff and supporters who are in recovery, and we want them to feel as welcome as those who would like to drink,” said Fennelly.

You can’t place bets on horses at the event, but there are three different levels of tickets you can buy. The top level is titled “owner,” and the “owner” of a winning horse gets roses and a bottle of champagne, said Diana Fennelly, chair of the Derby Day event, and president of COPE’s board of trustees.

“People get really excited when the race comes on,” Fennelly said. “People love it. There’s an enormous screen.”

There is also a hat contest, with a prize, and Fennelly has her bonnet all ready. “I’ve put a big bow on the side of the hat.”
COPE has been holding a Derby Day event for five years, and it’s popular: as of this Tuesday, 141 tickets had been sold. COPE inherited the event from Senior Care and Activities Center when that organization was a nonprofit, Seidenfeld explained. The late John Helm, who served on the boards of both organizations, started it 27 years ago, she said.

Big Sonic, a local trio led by Big Mamou’s Jim Fenhagen, will perform, Fennelly said: “You can feel the excitement. If you come and see it on the big screen, it’s almost like you’re there.”

Kentucky Derby Day Celebration
Saturday, May 6, 5-7 p.m.
Montclair Art Museum, 3 South Mountain Ave.
Information:, 973-783-6655