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Long Days’ Journey to Post Time


Horse-racing aficionados know the Kentucky Derby as “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” but students from Penn College’s School of Business & Hospitality – who have been making the pilgrimage to Churchill Downs for a quarter-century – know firsthand the rigorous and rewarding schedule leading up to those 120 seconds. Go behind-the-scenes with the college’s enterprising entourage as they travel, mince, stand, peel, stay awake and prep for hours … and savor every moment of the exhausting experience. (A YouTube video captures more of the week’s action.)

– Photos by Tom Speicher, writer/video editor

In addition to their personal belongings, the 28 hospitality students and 10 alumni transport 40 boxes of Guittard Chocolate on the 11-hour bus ride to Louisville, Ky. The chocolate will serve as the key ingredient for decadent desserts at Churchill Downs’ exclusive clubs and suites.
In addition to their personal belongings, the 28 hospitality students and 10 alumni transport 40 boxes of Guittard Chocolate on the 11-hour bus ride to Louisville, Ky. The chocolate will serve as the key ingredient for decadent desserts at Churchill Downs’ exclusive clubs and suites.

The sign between the fabled Twin Spires reveals this will be the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, the longest continually held sporting event in the United States.
The sign between the fabled Twin Spires reveals this will be the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby, the longest continually held sporting event in the United States.

Hospitality students are pumped for an exciting week at the Kentucky Derby as they arrive for their first day of work.
Hospitality students are pumped for an exciting week at the Kentucky Derby as they arrive for their first day of work.

The first morning at the Derby is a sweet one for Somer A. Safford, of Port Allegany (left), and Ashley R. Potrzebowski, of Williamsport.
The first morning at the Derby is a sweet one for Somer A. Safford, of Port Allegany (left), and Ashley R. Potrzebowski, of Williamsport.

What a way to start the day. Both horse and jockey pause during an early-morning workout to savor the pending sunrise.
What a way to start the day. Both horse and jockey pause during an early-morning workout to savor the pending sunrise.

Cynthia R. Setzer (left), of Port Allegany, and Amaris T. Smith, of Williamsport, are all smiles after serving guests at the Turf Club.
Cynthia R. Setzer (left), of Port Allegany, and Amaris T. Smith, of Williamsport, are all smiles after serving guests at the Turf Club.

No tears: Bethany R. Taylor, of Moosic, cuts a seemingly endless supply of onions.
No tears: Bethany R. Taylor, of Moosic, cuts a seemingly endless supply of onions.

Tuesday of Derby Week was a beautiful day. Too bad the sunshine and 82 degrees couldn’t hang around until Saturday.
Tuesday of Derby Week was a beautiful day. Too bad the sunshine and 82 degrees couldn’t hang around until Saturday.

Rachel A. Henninger, of Bellefonte, will need to wash her chef whites at the end of the day.
Rachel A. Henninger, of Bellefonte, will need to wash her chef whites at the end of the day.

Chef Charles R. Niedermyer II, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts and the tireless leader of the Penn College Derby contingent, clocks in for another 16-hour workday.
Chef Charles R. Niedermyer II, instructor of baking and pastry arts/culinary arts and the tireless leader of the Penn College Derby contingent, clocks in for another 16-hour workday.

Would you like a piece of Derby Pie?
Would you like a piece of Derby Pie?

Hats featuring a canopy of colors always add style to Derby Week.
Hats featuring a canopy of colors always add style to Derby Week.

Hospitality students proudly decorated this cake moments before it was whisked into the Stakes Club for guests to enjoy.
Hospitality students proudly decorated this cake moments before it was whisked into the Stakes Club for guests to enjoy.

Olivia M. Lunger, of Elysburg; Maria E. Berrios, of Bethlehem; Keegan D. Sonney, of Erie; and Dylan H. Therrien, of Reading, spent the entire week in the kitchen of The Mansion, the most exclusive dining facility at Churchill Downs.
Olivia M. Lunger, of Elysburg; Maria E. Berrios, of Bethlehem; Keegan D. Sonney, of Erie; and Dylan H. Therrien, of Reading, spent the entire week in the kitchen of The Mansion, the most exclusive dining facility at Churchill Downs.

Alumna Victoria L. Kostecki and current student Jacob W. Parobek, of Seltzer, worked together all week in the Stakes Club kitchen. Parobek says all the workers became “like family.”
Alumna Victoria L. Kostecki and current student Jacob W. Parobek, of Seltzer, worked together all week in the Stakes Club kitchen. Parobek says all the workers became “like family.”

Have potatoes ever looked so good?
Have potatoes ever looked so good?

Nora E. Smith, of Centre Hall, and Sarah A. Bryan, of Bellefonte, take a respite from making salads in the Stakes Club kitchen.
Nora E. Smith, of Centre Hall, and Sarah A. Bryan, of Bellefonte, take a respite from making salads in the Stakes Club kitchen.

The main kitchen at Churchill Downs became a second home for Ricky J. Frankhouser, of Jersey Shore, and Tyler C. Geer, of Wellsboro.
The main kitchen at Churchill Downs became a second home for Ricky J. Frankhouser, of Jersey Shore, and Tyler C. Geer, of Wellsboro.

Alumna Skylar (Burke) Diehl maintains her composure despite the stacks of meat headed her way.
Alumna Skylar (Burke) Diehl maintains her composure despite the stacks of meat headed her way.

Speaking of which …
Speaking of which …

... now it’s time to tackle some pork.
… now it’s time to tackle some pork.

Students enjoy a momentary escape from their windowless kitchen to soak in Churchill Downs.
Students enjoy a momentary escape from their windowless kitchen to soak in Churchill Downs.

This horse is obviously not camera-shy.
This horse is obviously not camera-shy.

Now THAT'S a bowl of chicken wings!
Now THAT’S a bowl of chicken wings!

Alumna Alyssa Morales prepares tray after tray of wild rice.
Alumna Alyssa Morales prepares tray after tray of wild rice.

Margarine is not used at the Derby!
Margarine is not used at the Derby!

Lunger complements pieces of pie with some fresh berries.
Lunger complements pieces of pie with some fresh berries.

The mint julep is the staple drink at the Kentucky Derby.
The mint julep is the staple drink at the Kentucky Derby.

Bridget M. Callahan, of Pottsville, has been on her feet since 3 a.m., but she is not complaining.
Bridget M. Callahan, of Pottsville, has been on her feet since 3 a.m., but she is not complaining.

Niedermyer confers with Chef Donald Wressell, executive pastry chef at Guittard Chocolate Co., regarding the next day’s dessert options.
Niedermyer confers with Chef Donald Wressell, executive pastry chef at Guittard Chocolate Co., regarding the next day’s dessert options.

A late-morning shower portends the wettest Kentucky Derby in history.
A late-morning shower portends the wettest Kentucky Derby in history.

This chocolate mousse is to die for.
This chocolate mousse is to die for.

The hospitality students prove resourceful by transforming garbage bags into emergency ponchos.
The hospitality students prove resourceful by transforming garbage bags into emergency ponchos.

Steady raindrops force spectators to seek shelter on Derby Day.
Steady raindrops force spectators to seek shelter on Derby Day.

The view from the roof of Churchill Downs as the Derby hopefuls head to the starting gate.
The view from the roof of Churchill Downs as the Derby hopefuls head to the starting gate.

The pouring rain doesn’t dampen the spirits of alumna Dallas A. Tyree, current student Brittany L. Mink, of Allentown, and alumna Katlyn Hackling.
The pouring rain doesn’t dampen the spirits of alumna Dallas A. Tyree, current student Brittany L. Mink, of Allentown, and alumna Katlyn Hackling.

Therrien finds another use for his apron to watch the Kentucky Derby.
Therrien finds another use for his apron to watch the Kentucky Derby.

Yep, it was a long week!
Yep, it was a long week!

As the students’ bus nears Williamsport, the sun sets on another successful adventure for hospitality students at the Kentucky Derby.
As the students’ bus nears Williamsport, the sun sets on another successful adventure for hospitality students at the Kentucky Derby.

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