West Virginia University of Parkersburg Hosts Derby Dash Fundraiser

With the taste of sugar and fresh mint lingering on your lips, you head down to the bookie to place $100 on Like the King and $50 on Bourbonic. A warm breeze washes over you, bringing up the smell of fresh-cut bluegrass along with sweet rose drifting from the winner’s circle. The aroma is just as bright as the flashes of large pink and blue tea party hats in the stands. Soon, a booming voice echoes, “Riders to the starting gate.” 

Let the races begin.

This is the Kentucky Derby everyone imagines and loves. While horse-enthusiasts and spectators may not be able to join the celebration in Louisville, the West Virginia University at Parkersburg Foundation is bringing the excitement of race-day traditions to the comfort of homes while making a local impact.

The Foundation is selling Derby Dash boxes complete with a gourmet charcuterie spread, Mint Julep fixings and commemorative cups for two. Boxes are available for $75 each and will be ready for pickup at West Virginia University at Parkersburg, on May 1, from 9 a.m. until 11 a.m.,  where you can also place bets on the competing horses. Proceeds from the Derby Dash will benefit the upkeep and preservation of the Oakland Estate. 

The home is a historical harbinger to all who recognize its significance. Spur marks from General McLellan adorn the dining room table and generations of books, paintings, and stories were left to the keeping of the college.

“In previous years, Oakland has opened its doors for Christmas tours, gatherings for the college’s National Institutes for Historically-Underserved students, and most importantly, the Kentucky Derby Party Fundraiser,” said Olivia Reeder, fundraiser organizer. “Whether in-person or at-home, this event continues the tradition of Oakland’s previous owner Betty Lutz who had a love of derby parties and philanthropy.”

In 2015, the WVU at Parkersburg Foundation received Oakland as a gift from Betty’s brother John and his wife, Pamela. John is the great-great-grandson of the estate’s builder and owner, James McNeil Stephenson. Built in 1832, Oakland stands as one of Parkersburg’s gateways to the past. The home is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a reminder of one man’s initiative to bring prosperity in the form of rail lines to the Mid-Ohio Valley.

As a politician, Stephenson represented Tyler, Wood, Ritchie and Doddridge counties in the Virginia House of Delegates. He married Agnes Boreman, sister of Arthur Boreman, the first governor of West Virginia. The home remained in the family for years until it was gifted to the college. Now, it carries on the tradition of hospitality and philanthropy that was so important to the previous owners.

“Oakland has a national and local prominence that we want to uphold for the community and the college,” said Reeder. “By investing in its preservation, we are investing in our history and future. We are proud to continue Betty’s vision of the home and use it to benefit the Mid-Ohio Valley and our alumni and academics.”

To purchase a Derby Dash Box, contact Olivia Reeder at oreeder@wvup.edu.