• Andrei Awad

My Dad and Churchill Downs

In May of 2018, my father attended the Kentucky Derby and participated in all the events - helping set up and partying at the Met Gala as well as the event the next day. The day after the derby, he called me and told me about his time there, telling me he had a story he was dying to tell me. To his recollection, he had gone to the elevator for something. He opened the door when another man appeared in the lift. He asked my dad for the designated floor and the doors shut. He started to make small talk with the man and asked him how he was enjoying the event. About 30 seconds into the conversation, my dad had an epiphany. He was speaking with Dennis Quaid. The star-struck feeling was overpowered by keeping himself reserved and talking to him like a normal human being. He then mentions something about Dennis’ career and asks if it was him. He responded with, “I’m surprised you didn’t say anything in the first place!” As they share a laugh, Dennis exits the elevator and says, “Nice to meet you and enjoy the night!” My dad has had many of these random meetings with celebrities in recent years.


Before that, something similar happened while attending the 2015 Kentucky Derby. There was an occurrence at the parking lot exit of Churchill Downs. He saw this man talking on the phone and recognized him from somewhere. A woman was standing next to him while this was happening and he asked “Do you know who that is over there? He looks familiar.” “That’s Adrien Grenier from Entourage!” He then proceeded to walk over to him and asked if he could take a picture. The two had a selfie-and exchanged goodbyes. What boggles my mind when he texted me the picture was that I asked him to keep an eye out for him. A few days before the derby, I texted my dad he was in Louisville from his most recent Instagram post and told him to snap a picture if possible - and behold, my dreams came true and I was filled with excitement!


After the Dennis Quaid spotting in 2018, another spotting occurred. He saw Victoria Justice at a table. This time, there was photographic evidence. When I was getting ready for prom that night about 300 miles away, he sent me a video of Victoria telling me to have a wonderful prom night. I was in shock as I stood in front of a random bathroom mirror.


The last one I have is my favorite story of his celebrity encounters. I can’t recall the year, but my father was yet again at Churchill Downs for the derby. He ended up in a millionaire's row at one point. While standing there, another man walked up to the ledge and started throwing money off the row with my dad and others. Turns out, the man was Cheech Marin from Cheech And Chong. My dad recalled himself throwing a five-dollar bill off the balcony. The wind blew it right back to Cheech’s coat pocket, then casually walked back to his seats, giving my dad a funny smirk.