Rep. Stewart Weekly Column: Small Business Week

***Guest Column***

I agree with Bern Williams who wrote, The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day he created Spring. I definitely hope that the teasing is over and spring has finally sprung. The sun is shining and the temperatures are finally on the rise. It can be argued that the sun is shining on taxpayers because the Illinois House of Representatives has been in recess this past week. I pray our luck holds when the House reconvenes May 8th.

There are two important noteworthy national events going on this week that have been on my mind. April 29th through May 5th is Small Business Week. Most of you may know that I am currently involved in the operations of 21 small businesses employing hundreds in Northern Illinois so this week is very important. And this Saturday marks the 144th Kentucky Derby.

Small businesses received their first assistance from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation created in 1932 during the Great Depression. In 1953, Congress passed the Small Business Act that created the Small Business Administration (SBA). Ten years later, President John F. Kennedy declared the first National Small Business Week, with the purpose to educate small business owners about how the SBA could help small businesses.

Today, not only does the SBA utilize National Small Business Week to inform small businesses about resources they can use to improve or expand their business, it recognizes and awards excellent small business owners. Deborah Sweeney, writer for, wrote, According to the SBA, more than half of Americans own or work for a small business. Entrepreneurs also help create two out of every three new jobs in the United States, yearly. Since the week-long event (National Small Business Week) began in 1963, the number of small businesses created has continued to rise. Fewer businesses are failing, too.

It is important for our state to empower and expand small business opportunities. This can be done by cutting red tape, and putting the right incentives in place to help new businesses start up, and existing businesses expand. I sincerely hope that the Illinois General Assembly works to pass laws that make sense and help businesses create jobs, especially in Northern Illinois.

It has been said that, The Kentucky Derby is billed as the most exciting two minutes in sports. Held every year on the first Saturday in May at the World famous Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, the most glamorous horse racing event of the year draws spectators from all over the world. The Derby truly is steeped in tradition, from the big hats to the Mint Juleps.

Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, Grandson of William Clark of the famous Lewis and Clark expedition, attended Englands Epsom Derby in 1872 on a trip to Europe. He later spent time with the French Jockey Club, a group that developed the Grand Prix de Paris Longchamps. Colonel Clark returned to Kentucky with the desire to bring a spectacular horse racing event to the US.

His uncles, John and Henry Churchill, leased the land in Louisville, Kentucky to be used for the racetrack. Colonel Clark formed a club of enthusiastic local horse racing fans called the Louisville Jockey Club. The club dues raised enough money to build the tracks clubhouse, grandstand, stables and porters lodge. They opened the gates to the track on May 17th, 1875 for the first Kentucky Derby.

In 1883 the racetrack adopted the name, Churchill Downs. Churchill Downs holds the record for the longest-running continuous sporting event in the United States, the Kentucky Derby.

Hats were part of the Kentucky Derby extravaganza right from the start. Colonel Clark envisioned a horse racing spectacle that was a lodestone for upper class attendees in the European style. The Europeans required Sunday best attire for their crme de la crme events, including gowns, parasols, and of course, hats.

Col. Clark originally used the Louisville Jockey Clubs upper class women to attract more upper class attendees to the Derby. The result was a Kentucky Derby that was as much about fashion as it was about the horse race. Once the Derby was televised, hats became bigger and more colorful.

The Mint Julep was chosen and promoted by Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby in 1938, ostensibly to add another unique aspect to the event. The Old Forester Mint Julep is now the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. Almost 120,000 mint juleps are served during the Derby weekend.

The Kentucky Derby truly is an awesome spectacle. I look forward to watching it this weekend. Then it will be back to Springfield, fighting for common sense legislation that will make life in Northern Illinois better.

If you have any additional thoughts or ideas, you can reach me or Sally at 815-232-0774, or visit my website at and use the form to send me an e-mail.

Brian Stewart

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