Tim Snyder earned his one-word moniker when he “stymied” the competition in a beer chugging contest on college spring break. Yet, he may be most infamous for the year he won the title of Chief Party Officer of Derby 134. (No, seriously, that’s a real title and he actually won it.)
As CPO, Stymie became a popular character with the local and national media as he hosted an exclusive boardroom in Churchill Downs’ infield and attended the hottest parties around town.
Originally from Detroit, Stymie is now a long-time resident of Louisville and advocate of the most exciting two minutes in sports. The Voice-Tribune caught up with Stymie to see if he still considers himself CPO of the Kentucky Derby.
When you first decided to enter the CPO contest in 2008, you chose not to read the rules. Why was that?
You know that’s difficult for someone like a CPO. I thought (my idea would) be cool – “Stymie’s Rookie’s Guide to the Derby.” I was making the video (guide) and had all these little vignettes planned and waited to submit it (until the last day) because I thought someone was going to try to copy it and someone said, “Did you bother reading the rules?” (The clip could only be 90 seconds in length; the video was way over.) … So, I said (to my videographer), “Meet me at Gate 1 in 20 minutes. … I’m going to make something up.” Just then, a guy with neon boots and a funny-looking hat walked up. … I walked over and asked the guy what he’s doing and he said, “I’m one of the buglers at Churchill Downs and there’s a party.” I said, “If you play the ‘Call to the Post’ I’ll give you 20 bucks.” … When we got done (with the video) it was, as is, one take and it was right about 90 seconds.
What did you win as CPO?
One of the first perks was a limousine all the way through Sunday (of Derby week) 24 hours a day. (Churchill Downs) wanted people everywhere to know this is the CPO of the event and sent me to all these events.
What are some tips you give people for Derby?
If you’re staying downtown, taking the TARC bus is a great way to get there. Go into Gate 3 right on Fourth and Central. Wagners, obviously that’s a great place to go, and one of my favorite things (to tell people are) “Stymie’s Infield Smuggler Stories.”
Do you have a favorite ‘Stymie Story?’
This is my 20th Derby, so I’ve seen a lot in terms of the tongue-and-cheek nature of people trying to smuggle stuff in. The best I ever saw was a wedding party. … They were just about to get waved through and one of the security guards poked a pencil through (a cake they brought) and they heard “clank.” And, they pulled a piece of cake away and saw they had built this cake around the keg.
Do you have any betting tips?
I tell people when they come in (to the track) they’ve got to pick for Derby and bet it right away. My very first Derby … I came up with the idea we should throw in 20 or 30 bucks and just pick the long shot.
Everyone collected all the money and I had like 400 dollars and … we get to the track around 10 (a.m.). There was a huge line so I remember saying, ‘Let’s go get a drink first and try the Mint Julep.’… Later at night we were walking around and (asking) who won and … (someone) said Sea Hero (the long shot) won. Everybody looked over at me and I reached my hand in my pocket and pulled out my 400 dollars. I forgot to bet. We would have won thousands of dollars. All these guys would have won a considerable amount of money, but we all had so much fun at Derby we didn’t even care about it.
Are you the only CPO Churchill Downs has named in their history?
They had a CPO the second year (in 2009) and a big debate if they wanted to keep me. (The contest) really didn’t get promoted like it should have the second year. So, I just take it as my mission to kind of carry that torch and let people know how great the Derby is.
If you could sum it up, what does the Kentucky Derby mean to you?
It’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on even though you don’t necessarily always see people with their clothes on. It’s one of the greatest sporting events in the world and if you compare it to NASCAR or Super Bowl tickets, (those) things are four or five thousand dollars if you can get them. (There’s) nothing you can do for 40 or 45 bucks like you can the Kentucky Derby or Oaks. … I’ve been to Mardi Gras and all these different things, and nothing comes close to the overall Derby.
Photos Courtesy of MARTY PEARL