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Portofino Derby Classic planned to support Johnston Health

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CLAYTON — The second annual Portofino Derby Classic on Saturday will raise funds for cancer patients at the Johnston Health hospitals in Smithfield and Clayton.

Organizers call it a “Party With a Purpose” and last year it raised nearly $80,000 for the Johnston Health Foundation’s Angel Fund.

The event runs from 2:30-7:30 p.m. at the Portofino Equestrian Center, 213 Portofino Drive off N.C. 42.

“Norwood and Sandra Thompson built a huge barn,” said event chairman Mike Marvel. “Five years ago, the Clayton Rotary Club decided to start a derby event and hosted it for three years. Thompson mentioned it would be a good idea to reinvent. We knew the possibilities were there and felt the hospital could raise funds to make it happen. Last year, it was very successful.”

Nearly 1,000 people attended last year’s classic.

The Portofino Derby Classic is held on the same day as the Kentucky Derby and Marvel said it’s eastern North Carolina’s biggest Derby party.

This year’s festivities will be emceed by WRAL’s Bryan Mims and Clayton Mayor Jody McLeod.

Tickets are $100 per person for VIP Jockey Club admission. Marvel said VIP admission is limited to 250 people and includes complimentary food and beverage, event attractions, horse races and demonstrations and participation in the hat and outfit contests, silent and live auctions.

General admission for adults is $50 and includes access to the attractions, participation in the hat and outfit contests, silent and live auctions and complimentary food and beverages with two tickets for wine or beer.

General admission for ages 6-15 is $20 and includes access to kids’ activities, attractions, participation in the kids’ outfit contest, complimentary food and soft drinks. Children 5 and under are admitted free.

Tickets are available online until 5 p.m. Friday. Tickets may be purchased on the day of the event. Marvel said attendees must have their printed tickets or e-tickets on their cellphones ready to scan at the event check-in tent.

The derby benefits the Angel Fund, which supports cancer patients in the community who are going through financial hardships. This fund helps purchase items including medications, gas for transportation to treatments, wigs and prosthetics.

Specifically, donations provide $20 for a gas card for a patient’s round-trip transport needs for treatments, $50 for wigs for patients who have lost their hair through chemotherapy, $150 for the initial supply of nausea medication, $250 for one month’s supply of medical nutrition during chemotherapy and $500 for a pair of prosthetics and masectomy bra.

Marvel said his wife Pamela, who’s in charge of the Jockey Club, is a 28-year cancer survivor.

“The unique thing is our tribute to cancer survivors,” said Marvel. “ We have a tribute wall with memorial photos of cancer victims. People can write the names of friends on a horseshoe for the wall for $5. There are $5 bets with nice prizes donated by sponsors.”

The grand prize last year was box seat tickets for a Carolina Panthers football game. This year, the grand prize will be a trip to the 2020 Kentucky Derby.

There will be five food vendors and food is included with ticket purchase. Alcoholic beverages including mint juleps will be available for ages 21 and up, and soft drinks and water will also be on hand.

A mint julep, a Southern drink associated with the Kentucky Derby, consists primarily of bourbon, sugar, water, crushed or shaved ice and fresh mint.

Gates open at 2:30 p.m. General admission, VIP parking and on-site ticket sales will be available. Guests check in and receive wristbands and drink stubs. Bar and refreshment areas will be open.

At 3 p.m., attendees can have photos taken on the red carpet, visit the tribute wall, derby ticket tent, silent auction station, sponsor tents and refreshment areas. Afterwards, they will proceed to the race track.

Horse races with announcement of winners begins at 3:30 p.m., followed by the pig races.

At 5:30, attendees return to the main site for program and the silent auction closes. Contestants requested to proceed to the main stage.

At 5:40, the main program begins, which includes a welcome, sponsor acknowledgments, an Angel Fund presentation, door prizes, announcement of the silent auction winners, hat and outfit contest winners and a live auction.

The Kentucky Derby will be live-streamed at 6:34 p.m. with the race and announcement of the winners. The Portofino Derby Classic will then provide DJ music until 7:30 p.m.

Derby attendees can bet on both the races in Clayton and the Kentucky Derby. Winners will receive sponsor-donated prizes. There are no cash prizes.

For the kids, Marvel said there will be a special area hosted by Kids Are Kids which will feature pig races, things to see, mounted Raleigh police officers, kids’ photos and a game area.

Marvel said there are 90 volunteers working Saturday’s event.

The Marvels live in Clayton. Mike Marvel managed the Pine Hollow Golf Club in for 37 years and was also the golf director. He retired March 1.

Mike and Pamela Marvel are both involved in supporting Johnston Health.

“The hospital has been a great asset for Clayton and Smithfield,” said Marvel. “We’re very proud of that.”

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