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Storybook Farm: Derby Day back on track

Storybook Farm: Derby Day back on track

Only $5 for 5 months

Storybook Farm announced this week that it will move ahead with plans for its annual Derby Day celebration, its largest fund-raising event of the year, with a variety of safety measures put into effect for the new date set on Sept. 5.

That is the same date as the famous Kentucky Derby horserace, rescheduled from the annual traditional time on the first Saturday of May.

Storybook Farm provides “hope on horseback” for hundreds of children each year needing positive encouragement and therapy in battling challenges ranging from depression or abuse to physical disabilities.

The farm is located north of Opelika’s city limits and has grown in recent years to capture a national spotlight for its efforts in helping children at no cost to them. It depends on donations, grants and in-kind services, as well as hundreds of volunteers each year, including annually almost 1,600 Auburn University students who spend time at the farm.

Like most other non-profits around the globe, the farm’s funding is threatened by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After prayerful consideration and consultation with our board of directors and local health officials, we made the decision to move forward with this event. This is a decision we did not make lightly,” said Storybook Farm founder Dena Little.

“We are sensitive to the climate in which we are operating. We are also sensitive to the needs of our participants and our animals, knowing that without Derby funds, current and future programming will suffer,” she said. “We weighed every possible option, keeping in mind the opening of schools and Auburn University, Gov. Kay Ivey’s mask mandate and ‘safer at home’ orders.”

Storybook Farm’s Derby Day, the largest such derby day event in Alabama, is among the more popular annual social events locally, as many of the guests attending don derby-fashioned hats and stylish dress, while silent auctions and a wide variety of food-and-beverage tents provide treats.

Derby Day hosted more than 800 guests last year and had expectations for more than 1,000 this year, but it will be smaller than planned for safety reasons related to the COVID-19 threat.

“The Kentucky Derby Day is our primary fundraising event of the year. It immediately funds our day-to-day operations, including supplies for the children, veterinary care, medications and food for our animals,” Little said. “In short, Derby Day funds are critical to the sustainability and survival of Storybook Farm.”

Safety measures

Among plans she announced for the event:

• “This event will take place within 42,000-square-feet of outdoor space, providing ample space for each individual to socially distance.

• “We are limiting the number of tickets we will sell to ensure adequate space for each individual.

• “Face masks will be required (and will be provided) but we encourage everyone to incorporate a clever mask design when coordinating their outfit. There may be a prize for the best mask.

• “Temperature checks will be performed upon guest arrival.

• “Hand sanitizing stations will be provided throughout the event.

• “Signage will be placed throughout the farm reminding guests to maintain 6 feet of distance.

• “We have replaced our traditional table and tent set up with smaller, separated highboy tables and tents, as well as more open-air space.

• “Silent auction bids will be placed via an app, rather than on paper, and be displayed digitally.

• “All silent auction items will be sanitized prior to distribution.”

“We know that not everyone will be comfortable attending this event,” Little said. “We ask that if you are in a higher risk category or are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, you celebrate with us from the comfort of home (several live-streaming opportunities will be available).

“The unfortunate reality is that, without our Kentucky Derby Day event, Storybook Farm’s reach and impact will be greatly limited. We cannot work toward fulfilling our mission of changing childhoods for those experiencing hardship and difficulty without your help.”

Rain or shine

Derby Day is being planned as a “rain or shine event.” Ticket and sponsorship funds are tax-deductible, but non-refundable.

Storybook Farm also serves as a ministry, with one of its inspirational themes coming from Philippians 4:13 in the Bible:

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Additional details about Derby Day and Storybook Farm are available at

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Troy Turner is editor of the Opelika-Auburn News. He previously served as the news editor in New York for the nation's second largest newspaper company, and as the senior editor at several other news entities around the nation. He is an Auburn alum.

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