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The May story scene from the Kentucky Derby to Mother’s Day

Kentucky Derby

By Flickr user John Athayde

As April 2011 whirls to a close this week – with twisters, a space shuttle launch and regal nuptials yet to come -start marking your calendar with the many May milestones that will make for business news pegs and economic feature stories.

From the anniversary of a stock market meltdown to the centennial of the Indianapolis 500, there’s no shortage of stories in between.  If you like to hang stories on commemorative days and weeks, the list of holidays and observances for May 2011 include it’s Brain Tumor Awareness month (arthritis, melanoma and other ailments also get their due in May) along with National Egg Month, Sweet Vidalia Onions Month and Tennis Month.

Relegated to mere week-long observances (who thinks these things up, anyway?) are myriad events and entities ranging from Dating and Life Coach Appreciation to American Craft Beers to Update Your References to Old-Time Play Pianos. Special days pay homage to odometers, tubas, scrapbookers and babysitters, among others.

And the fist full weekend in May is a superfecta of Cinco de Mayo, the flash-crash one-year mark, the Kentucky Derby and Mother’s Day.   The juxtaposition of the stock market mishap and the big parimutuel event cries for a personal finance piece about  the relative merits of gambling in the stock markets vs. wagering at the track.  Other ideas:

Flash crash anniversary. The trading glitch that sent the Dow plunging 700 points in minutes last May 6  has been the subject of critiques and regulatory review (here’s the text of the SEC report, courtesy of MarketWatch) and may yet prompt some trading curbs and limits.

Because the problem is generally accepted to have been caused by a technical issue and not market manipulation, it’s a tough story to localize unless you happen to work in Manhattan.  However, the anniversary is a good opportunity for a personal finance piece about investing caveats.

Better yet, how about a look at the share price performance of major local companies along with large employers (even if they aren’t headquartered in your region.)  On the pretext of seeing how they’ve recovered since the  year-ago tumble, you can explore the value to shareholders of big local players, and use recent earnings reports, outlooks and interviews to explain share price performance.  Include past-year milestones – hiring growth, facility expansion or contractions – and use graphs, Q&As and other alternative storytelling to create a clip-and-save reference tool for readers.

Cinco de Mayo. It’s not just a Mexican military battle anniversary any more.  May 5th is increasingly becoming a reason to party no matter what one’s heritage – I just spotted a frantic Craigslist plea for Cinco de Mayo bartenders by a Florida Hard Rock, and apparently Pepto Bismol is debuting a pinata-themed YouTube video for Cinco de Mayo as it bills itself as a post-party potion.  Clearly, you can check with bars, party supply stores, Mexican restaurants, caterers, bakeries and other purveyors of fun stuff in your region to see how this fiesta is catching on.

Kentucky Derby. The 137th run for the roses takes place Saturday, May 7th – a good time to check up on race tracks, simulcast parlors and other betting establishments in your area.  It’s also a good time to review your state’s equine industries, from riding schools and stables to racing-related entities to specialty breeders.  Everyone loves  a horse story and May is the perfect excuse to get get some cute pony photos onto the business pages.

Mother’s Day. You can probably do the brunch story in your sleep, but this year I’m struck by the wider array of marketing efforts grabbing onto mom’s apron strings.  Just today an area auto racing track invaded my e-mail with a pitch for taking Mom there on her special day and my e-mail is clogged with similar pitches from venues as diverse as the Winterthur Museum, Rite-Aid, the Vermont Country Store and my local cable television provider.   Be interesting to do a marketing story about the pros and cons of oddball advertising efforts related to “Hallmark holidays.”

About the Author

Veteran financial writer Melissa Preddy served as a business writer, editor and columnist for The Detroit News from 1995 to 2008, is a Michigan-based freelance journalist. She now works as a writer and editor for a medical research unit of the University of Michigan Medical School. Follow her daily posts. | E-mail: Melissa Preddy

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