Things I Make - Not Bake

What I did with $1000 budget and my creative mind

I like to decorate for holidays and events and when a local woman was putting together a huge Kentucky Derby fundraiser for the local children’s hospital, she knew who to ask about design work. I was asked if I could decorate a whole estate with a budget of $1000. The location they were holding it at looked like a palace, on huge grounds that included a guest house and a pool house. I like the wow factor so I put my thinking cap on and you wouldn’t believe what I came up with, for $1000.


I wanted the drive up to the rotunda to be beautiful so I designed large red rose arrangements on tall posts that I made. Kentucky Derby is all about the red roses (and mint juleps!) Inside the estate, we needed to rope off certain areas so I made elegant posts with chains intertwined with ivy. An auction which being held in the pool house so I made two life-size horse topiaries to stand guard at the entrance. I can’t tell you how many nights I spent working in my garage, forming the boards, gluing together, cementing in pots, gluing green moss to cover the horses and wiring it. Let’s just say there were many sleepless nights and hardly a day went by that my arms weren’t covered in green dye from the moss! I had leftover moss so I designed a large, moss covered horseshoe with flowers.

The pool was a focal point so I decided to make floating red rose and greenery arrangements with little horses on them. They were anchored at the bottom of the pool so they stayed in place.


They were going to sell tickets, like at a race track, so of course we needed old-fashioned ticket booths but how would I do it affordably and make it easy to transport? Well, I fashioned three sides that would fold on hinges. I made little curtains out of fabric I had at home, added a mini counter with corbels I bought at a thrift store, stained everything, added signage above with a $1 frame from Dollar Store and there you go!

There were to be 100s of people in attendance so I had to think of table arrangements too. I used vintage derby glasses to make rose arrangements for the tables and large glass bowls with jockeys in the bottom and floating roses. I had to be creative with a small budget. I also knew that many people wouldn’t know much about the Derby so I made a little history museum with past winners, how the Derby started, and things the Derby is known for.

Well, my crowning achievement that night was someone coming up to meet me from New Jersey and said I was like a rock star to her and she wouldn’t leave without meeting me. What an honor! No one could believe I could do what I did with such a small budget and we raised a tremendous amount of money for the children’s hospital and the event continues to do so.
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