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How the Kentucky Derby marks the unofficial start of summer on Fire Island

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Grab your fancy hats and a mint julep because the Kentucky Derby kicks off this weekend. 

While some Long Islanders may be flying directly to Louisville, Kentucky for the big race this Saturday, May 7, others will be looking for derby plans a lot closer to home. 

The Kentucky Derby marks the unofficial start to the summer season for many Fire Island businesses, such as Castaway in Ocean Beach, Dive restaurant in Kismet, and the Fire Island Beach House hotel in Ocean Bay Park. 

For those still figuring out how to celebrate the occasion, Fire Island is one option for optimal horse race viewing.  

Take it from some of the Fire Island restauranteurs themselves; here’s what these three establishments are offering on May 7.

Dive Kismet

The Kentucky Derby commences Dive Kismet‘s 2022 summer season.

For their opening day on May 7, owner Frankie Bragaglia said they are hosting a day-long derby party at the modern beach bar.

From noon-6 p.m. for $110, guests receive four hours of unlimited house drinks and food, including mint juleps and a derby-style Southern buffet.

Live music will play throughout the day with performances by The Zigons and Local Motion⁠. Those who dress up are eligible to win prizes, including the category Best Dressed, Bragaglia said.

To order tickets ahead of the event, click here. Tickets at the door are $125. Regular service with a smaller menu and cash bar at Dive is still available that day with no cover charge.

“It’s something a little different to start the season up and get the summer itch going a little early,” the owner said.

Kentucky Derby entrant Messier gets a bath after a workout at Churchill Downs Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Louisville, Ky. The 148th running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for Saturday, May 7. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

The Fire Island Beach House

The Fire Island Beach House in Ocean Bay Park is “celebrating the greatest two minutes in sports,” starting at noon on Saturday.

The dress code is dresses and Derby hats for the ladies, slacks and jackets for the gentlemen.

Tickets are $150, which includes food and drink, access to live entertainment and races that will be streamed throughout the day. Attendees can also take part in a variety of raffles and giveaways. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out The Fire Island Beach House’s Eventbrite page.

Castaway Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach

Last year, Jon Randazzo celebrated Castaway‘s 15th year anniversary in Ocean Beach and reopened in its new location at 927 Evergreen Walk, in the former Bocce Beach space.

Kentucky Derby weekend is usually when the crowd starts to return to the summer destination and is one of the first events of the season at the restaurant, the owner said.

“People have that itch to come to the beach and a lot of people want to open their houses, get a cocktail, it gives them a reason to get a cocktail,” Randazzo said. “There’s always a really good crowd in town, that’s for sure.”

The owner added that Castaway will hand out different color hats to the ladies when they come into the restaurant and the mint juleps will be flowing that day.

He said, now that Castaway is in a bigger location, they are able to host more people than ever before. And even better, Randazzo said there is “never a cover” at Castaway for this event.

“It’s a getaway from every day. You can hop on a ferry and feel like you’re on vacation for a little while, even if it’s for a couple of hours for something like the Derby, some food, snacks, and drinks,” Randazzo said. “It’s Fire Island — it’s the place to be!”

Featured image: The field of 19 horses and riders bolt out of the starting gate during the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Ky. The Kentucky Derby is moving closer to normalcy after two years of upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)