I will never again see news of the Keeneland-Maker’s Mark commemorative bottle events without thinking of how Tom Eblen succinctly summed up the Central Kentucky rite of spring last year:
It has to be one of Kentucky’s stranger traditions: Buy a couple of expensive bottles of bourbon you would never think of opening and stand in line all night so famous people can sign the labels.
But if you are into arts philanthropy, you’ll want to pay attention to this year’s bottle, which goes on sale Friday. Proceeds from the commemorative bottles, which feature images from University of Kentucky athletics, have always gone to support programs at UK. This year’s bottle, featuring football coach Rich Brooks, will benefit an extension program designed to bring UK Symphony Orchestra musicians and other School of Music students into public schools throughout Kentucky.
Maker’s Mark estimates that proceeds from sales of this year’s run of 18,000 bottles will be $200,000. With matching grants, UK estimates $1.2 million could be generated for the the three-part project, designed by UK Symphony director John Nardolillo and geared toward third- and fourth-grade students.
The suggested retail price for the bottles, which will go on sale Friday across the state, is $45-$49. The signing with Coach Brooks, Maker’s Mark President Bill Samuels and Keeneland President Nick Nicholson will be at 6:30 a.m. April 10. Nardolillo will probably find some football-and-symphony fans — they do exist — wanting his signature too.
Due to the popularity of the event, Keenland has introduced some new guidelines to the signing. According a press release from UK:
“Security officials will begin distributing tickets Thursday evening, April 9, to fans in line who are 21 years or older. The ticket will allow each holder to have up to two of the 2009 commemorative bottles signed. Tickets will not be numbered and will not dictate a place in line, but will assure the holder up to two bottles will be signed. Anyone leaving the line after receiving a ticket will have to return to the end of the line. All ticket holders should be in line by 6:30 a.m. on Friday, April 10.
“A concession stand will be open to serve beverages and snacks throughout the night before the signings. No coolers and no alcohol, other than the 2009 commemorative bottle, will be allowed inside the gates.”