The Kentucky Derby will run on May 3, 2014 this year and mark the 140th “Run for the Roses.” While most people focus on the race itself, there is a lot of preparation that goes into the race on and off the track. One of these things is the making of the traditional garland of red roses that is placed around the winning horse’s neck. Have you ever stopped to think about where the garland comes from or how it is made?
The Kentucky Derby garland or blanket of red roses has been made by the floral department of Kroger’s supermarket located in Louisville, Ky. for the past 28 years. They will have the honor once again this year in constructing one of the most prestigious displays of the year that will be presented to the winner of the Kentucky Derby.
The blanket of roses for the Derby winner contains over 450 roses each year and takes hours to prepare. The construction begins the evening before the big race and continues throughout the night until the garland is finished.
The base of the garland is made of a blanket that is first covered with garland. Next, the roses are sewn into the blanket one by one. Each rose has its own small vial of water to keep the roses fresh. The rose stems are inserted into the blanket material to hide the stems, leaving only the roses visible. The seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the Churchill Downs’ twin spires are also included in the blanket of red roses before being topped off with red ribbon. The blanket of red roses weighs 40 pounds and measures 122 inches long and 22 inches wide when finished.
On the day of the Kentucky Derby the blanket of roses is taken to Churchill Downs via a police escort and placed on display close to the Clubhouse Garden and the Jockey’s Club Balcony until just before the race begins. Spectators can admire the blanket of roses and also keep their eyes open for jockeys coming to get a peep of the “trophy” for autographs.
All of this seems like a lot of work and effort for a race that lasts for approximately two minutes. However, tradition stands and the winner of the Kentucky Derby is crowned with a beautiful blanket of red roses.
Source: Kentucky Tourism