Turtle Derby a major fundraiser for Little Sisters

Enthusiastic crowds cheered on their favorite at the Little Sisters of the Poor annual Turtle Derby. More photos available in the gallery.

Record Staff Writer

“And we’re off,” bellowed Steve Hale, one of the announcers at the Little Sisters of the Poor’s 20th annual Turtle Derby.

And they were. Kind of.

A.J. Gaines, one of the turtle ‘handlers’, picked up a turtle just prior to a race at Sunday’s 20th annual Turtle Derby.

“They have left the gate,” Hale said with a track announ-cer’s enthusiasm. “No. 3 is trying to go back home. No. 1 is heading for the finish line. Turtle No. 10 has been turned around. And away we go in Race No. 27.”

The races may not have been sprints to the finish, but they produced their own measure of fun and excitement.

While perhaps not as serious as the Kentucky Derby, the money the event raises for the St. Joseph Home for the Aged is important, indeed.

Last year, the event — affec-tionately nicknamed the slowest two minutes in sports — brought in $63,000, all of which goes to the home.

The annual Turtle Derby is one of a trio of events throughout the year that accounts for the majority of the home’s income. An annual golf scramble, held each summer, and the Holiday Fest, held in November, make roughly the same amount of money as the Turtle Derby, said Mary Ann Morgan, one of the derby’s head volunteers.

Besides betting on the races — each bet is $1 — people are able to buy naming rights for the turtles for $30 each and sponsor races.

Little Sister of the Poor Bernard said people keep turning out for the annual event “to see what it’s all about.”

“There’s also a delicious chicken dinner (cooked by volunteers at St. Stephen Martyr Church). But there is no turtle soup,” she said with a chuckle.

The Little Sisters of the Poor have been caring for the elderly in Louisville since 1839. St. Joseph Home has 26 apartments and 50 nursing beds.

“Our philosophy is to provide as close to a home-like atmosphere for our residents as possible,” Mother Superior Sister Chantal Mary said.

Individuals and families return year after year, each hoping that this year they will pick the lucky winner.

Marie Wine, who has been coming to the Turtle Derby for 11 years, said her favorite part of the event is all the people coming out to support the Little Sisters of the Poor.

“I keep coming back because of the excitement and the community’s support of the Little Sisters,” she said.

Besides the excitement of the day’s 34 races, the event also had a cake wheel, silent auction, bake sale, live music, chicken dinners and pull tabs.

Back at Race No. 27, Turtle 11 — named Meandering Michelle — lumbered from behind to nab first place and provided the second biggest payoff of the day — $9.25.

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