Kelsey Sutton’s ’19 (Brandenburg, Kentucky) dream of becoming a princess has now become a reality, as she is one of five women in the state who was selected as a Kentucky Derby Festival Princess. Sutton is the third Centre College student to represent the College in this program.
The Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court selects five women from over 100 applicants through a process of interviews. Those who are selected as princesses have the honor of representing the Kentucky Derby Festival and the city of Louisville, as well as their respective hometowns and colleges.
The princesses serve as ambassadors for the festival and attend more than 70 events during the season. In April, one of the five women will be crowned queen at the Fillies Derby Ball by a spin-of-the-wheel. Each princess receives $2,000 in scholarships, $1,000 from the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation and another $1,000 from The Fillies, Inc.
“I have known about this program for several years, but this was my first year applying,” Sutton said. “When I started my college career at Centre, I was a member of the women’s basketball team. With my commitment to the team, I would not have had the time to be a member of the royal court and attend all of the festival events. However, after tearing my ACL and having my fourth knee surgery, I was no longer able to play basketball.
“I began to explore other ways to be a leader, team member and role model,” she continued. “I was able to pursue other leadership positions at Centre, and this year, I decided to apply for the opportunity to be a Kentucky Derby Festival Princess. I knew that it was an extremely competitive program, but I also knew that I had no chance at all if I didn’t at least apply and go through the process.”
For Sutton, being a member of the royal court is something she had dreamed about but never thought would become a reality.
“I knew the caliber of women who were involved in this program in the past, including Kentucky’s first female governor Martha Layne Collins,” she said. “It was an honor just to be selected as a finalist and get invited back for a second interview, and I cannot begin to describe how surreal it was to get a phone call and hear them ask if I wanted to be a Kentucky Derby Festival Princess.
“Having the honor of serving as a princess gives me the chance to have a positive impact on the lives of others, give back to the community that means so much to me and grow as an individual,” she continued. “I have also made many connections and friendships through this experience, including my close friendships with the other four princesses.”
While this is a unique program and a new experience for her, Sutton has been involved in a variety of activities and leadership positions that share similar qualities as this one.
“One thing that I’m looking forward to most about being a Kentucky Derby Festival Princess is that it is a mix of doing what I already love to do and having entirely new experiences at the same time,” she said. “For example, working with kids is something that I am passionate about, but I have never had the opportunity to serve as a princess while visiting Jefferson County Public Schools or attending the Children’s Tea.”
Sutton said that her hope is that she will make a lasting impact on others through this experience.
“The opportunity to be a role model, especially to girls and young women, was one of the main reasons that I was drawn to this program in the first place,” she added. “While my focus is on what I can do for others during this experience, I hope to come away from it having grown and matured as an individual and having made meaningful connections and friendships. I also hope to gain an even better understanding of and deeper love for the place that I call home.”
by Kerry Steinhofer
January 31, 2019