(NBC) - Today marks the start of the Kentucky Derby weekend.

Over the next two days more than 100,000 people will visit Louisville's Churchill Downs race track to watch the oldest continuously contested sporting event in history.

For Louisville the derby weekend celebration is the equivalent of a second Christmas, and people spend weeks getting ready, picking out the perfect hat and outfit to match.

Equally painstaking is the focus on food.

Churchill Downs Executive Chef Jo Jo Doyle plans to serve more than 500,000 thousand meals over the weekend.

"Turkey is one of our favorite items here. We cook over 17,000 pounds this week alone," he says.

Twelve preliminary races will be run on Friday.

You can watch the derby live on Channel 3 and NBC beginning at 4:00p.m. Saturday.