Q&A: Jimmy Buckner, executive director of the Scarecrow Foundation

Jimmy Buckner is executive director of the Scarecrow Foundation, an organization that focuses on ending hunger and will host its second Downtown Derby Week May 2-5 to benefit Second Harvest.

Will people drink mint juleps or women wear big hats?

We certainly hope people enjoy the festive nature of the event. We invite people to dress up and be in their attire, and to visit the website to pick something they can put their hearts into. There are parties and events starting Wednesday, May 2, involving fashion to mint juleps to cigars to a corn hole tournament.

How do ordinary folks get involved?

The first answer, what we want everyone to do regardless, is to buy a lanyard for $10 from a participating downtown business. That is the main thing; you use it to save money at those locations and all proceeds go toward Second Harvest's backpack program—sending needy kids home from school with food for the weekend.

What's an example of a lanyard benefit?

You might get a 2-for-1 appetizer at a downtown restaurant, or savings at a favorite retail store. This is new this year: Club LeConte is hosting Taste of the Derby during the race for members and non-members alike—anyone with a lanyard.

Anything else new this year?

Music! We wanted to add a concert, and since we want to be everything Derby, it's Americana night at the Tennessee Theatre, with John Oates and the SteelDrivers with Sierra Hull. The concert is $27, and the proceeds for that alone will go to the theater. And then there's a VIP event before, Party in the Park—the VIP tickets, at $75, are selling very fast.

The Pimp My Pony event, did you approve that name?

It's all in the spirit of having a good time. I know the participating retailers are very excited—they'll be trying to turn a broom or mop into the prettiest pony.

Is your restaurant Latitude 35 going to pimp a pony?

That's for retailers and service industries. There's a different contest for restaurants, Run for the Rosé, and we'll enter that. Servers will race with wine glasses on trays.

Are you feeling competitive?

Absolutely! I know our runner, Stevie Shumate, is fired up to win it, too.

Any other new stuff?

There's a bourbon and handicapping party on the rooftop of Preservation Pub Friday.

Handicapping the horses, not the Rose Run?

Yes! And that reminds me of our second year with a very popular game that's free to play, no purchase necessary: Scarecrow Perfecta. People get entries at downtown businesses and predict the top four finishers of the Kentucky Derby. Whoever does the best, the top four, win a grand prize. Of course we don't anticipate any one person correctly predicting the exact superfecta. If they did, I think they'd be very disappointed they were not doing the real thing.

Do you get any grief over doing a Kentucky thing here?

Not at all. There are so many horse enthusiasts who live in East Tennessee. And you don't even have to care about the race to like this events: people who love parties, love fashion—they'll find it very fun. And it's a great business model, motivating people to come and enjoy our city, and spend money, and help a good cause. The real tagline for this event, and for the Scarecrow Foundation: "Why should anyone in America be hungry?"

For more information: scarecrowfoundation.org