Kentucky Derby charity party coming to the Pier

A local nonprofit is bringing the Kentucky Derby to the St. Pete Pier.

13 Ugly Men is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to support Tampa Bay charities through large-scale events and volunteer efforts. According to its website, the nonprofit started “in the 1990s as a group of 13 founding members who hosted fantastic parties and wanted to improve our community by giving back.”

13 Ugly Men officially became a nonprofit in 1998 and began hosting a handful of events a year, choosing a different benefitting charity for each event. One of those large-scale fundraisers is the “Derby at the Pier,” a Kentucky Derby-themed party with food, music, dancing, a raffle for a trip for two to the Kentucky Derby in Louisville in 2025, carnival games and more.

“Last year, we had around 2,200 people [attend]. This year, the growth so far leading up to the event has been substantial, so we’re expecting closer to 2,500 to 3,000, which is great,” said Nick McDevitt, event chair of Derby at the Pier. “The [13 Ugly Men] group is all volunteers, so it’s a lot of work, but we’re excited to try to make this a premier event that people get used to and look forward to.”

Partygoers dance at the 2023 Derby at the Pier.

13 Ugly Men has been hosting a Kentucky Derby-themed party in Tampa since 2017 but moved over to St. Pete’s Spa Beach in 2023. This year’s event, scheduled for May 4 from 3 to 9 p.m., will raise money for Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg. Nonprofits interested in benefitting from 13 Ugly Men events can apply and be selected through an interview process.

“We supported Academy Prep in Tampa previously, so we’re familiar with their overall organization. The work that they do for kids in St. Pete to help them get to the next level from an education standpoint stood out to us,” McDevitt said. “We try to look for organizations that have sustainability and are going to be around years down the road, so we’re very confident with that and very impressed by what they do for the community.”

The nonprofit hosts various “parties for a purpose” throughout the year, including a golf invitational, a Halloween party and a holiday-themed ugly sweater event. McDevitt said the nonprofit donated more than 175,000 to area nonprofits in 2023, including $25,000 to Pheonix House Florida, a no-cost addiction treatment center, as part of last year’s Derby at the Pier. He added that part of the draw for their events is making them accessible to the general public.

“It’s very much volume-based as far as like attendance, versus a lot of charity-based events where you can’t really get individual tickets unless your company sponsors or that sort of thing,” McDevitt said. “We’ve built up our sponsorship base, so our success is built on people purchasing tickets and attending.”

Another image from 2023. “We do pretty intensive build-out and try to make it a rain or shine event,” said Nick McDevitt, event chair for Derby at the Pier. “We bring in big screens on the stage, local bands, a DJ and food trucks.”

General admission tickets start at $35 and can be purchased online.

About the author

Ashley Morales

Ashley Morales