Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Roses That They Run For In The Run For The Roses

Why is the Kentucky Derby called "The Run For the Roses"? Well, the Derby winner received a floral arrangement of roses as far back as 1896. In 1904 the red rose became the official flower of the Derby, and in 1925 sportswriter Bill Corum dubbed the Kentucky Derby "the run for the roses". The garland, or blanket of roses, has been draped over the winner's neck every year since 1932.

You would think that each year the garland of roses would be made at some exclusive, private, fancy high society club.

You'd be wrong.

It's made inside a Kroger.

Yup, you heard it right. The Kentucky Derby winner's garland of roses is made the night before the race in a Kroger.

Suck on that, Publix!

I knew it was made at Kroger, and that it moved around the city to different Kroger's each year, but I had never stopped into see it being made. As it happened, this year it was being assembled at the Middletown Kroger, which just so happened to be right next to where we ate dinner on Friday night.

So after a late dinner we went in to check it out. It was late, and they were almost finished, so the crowd/line wasn't too bad, and we were able to see it up close and personal as they put the finishing touches on it.

There was a crew of half a dozen ladies who meticulously created the garland, and another couple who stood by and answered any and all questions that people had. They even handed out a little brochure explaining all you would want to know, as well as a ziploc bag with a couple rose petals from the actual roses being used for the blanket.

Before this year they used a smaller rose and there were 554 of them in the garland; this year they switched to a larger rose called the "Freedom Rose" {makes you wonder if it used to be called the French rose, but they renamed it, but I digress}, and this year there were I believe 436 such roses in the garland.

Pretty cool.

"Yeah that is pretty cool", you say.

"But, Kanu- you know what would be way cooler? If you had a tandem of septuagenarians setup at the end of aisle 7 under a tailgaiting tent playing a cover of the song "Spooky" by Dusty Springfield on a little mat of fake grass. Now that would be some off the chain shit right there."

Funny you should ask...

Yeah, these two dudes pretty much took a fun experience and turned it up to, and dare I say even past, 11.

Finest endcap display aisle 7 has ever seen

Here they are again with their smooth loungy version of "My Old Kentucky Home"

Yeah, it was that awesome.

Cool to finally see this little slice of local Americana flavor after 10 trips to the Derby. Even cooler was seeing it again about 20 hours later, as 5 men and a 4 man Kentucky State Trooper security detail carried it from the winners circle back to the clubhouse, passing right in front of us in the paddock.

Six women to make it from hand, nine men to escort it around.

I have tried in vain to find a photo of BIG BROWN in the winner's circle with the blanket of roses draped over his neck. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world, as it is one of the traditionally famous Derby moments, but i can't find it anywhere {official site, DRF, Bloodhorse, Thoroughbred Times, ESPN, Louisville Courier Journal, all 3 local Louisville TV stations, etc}. Anyhow, if you come across a photo please let me know where I can find such a photo to add to this story.

Thanks to commenter xprider, who hipped me to this ESPN article which tells that BIG BROWN doesn't like flowers, got a little freaked out after winning the Florida Derby when they tried to lay the blanket of orchids over his neck, so his handlers decided against laying the garland of roses around his neck. I can tell you without question that the line {emphasis mine}...

Nevin and Blum dutifully held the flowers for a moment, then dropped the blanket on the ground to join the party, leaving the most hallowed floral arrangement in sports laying on the infield for a few hours before it was rescued by a state trooper.

... is a journalistic fabrication because we saw with our own eyes the garland being escorted through the paddock about 10 minutes after the race.

Anyhow, here's the closest that's been found, with the two people to the right of the horse holding up the garland:

Now I feel sorry for those ladies at Kroger who spent over 6 hours assembling that thing by hand, although I guess it's cool that it is hanging on the side of the wall in BIG BROWN's stall in Barn 22 at CD.

***Update 2***
This article in the Louisville Courier-Journal goes into detail about the garland of roses, BIG BROWN's aversion to them, and the journey that the roses took from Kroger to Barn 22.


xprider said...

love your blog! Especially Kentucky Derby 101! The reason you can't find a pic of Big Brown wearing the Blanket of Roses is because he has an adversion to flowers! LOL Loves the crowds-the flowers scare him.
Here's the link that explains what they DID with the "most hallowed floral arrangement in sports"

You made it sound so great that I'm going to the Derby next year for the first time!

xprider (as in pony express rider)

The Hit said...

Ahhh xprider, another DV (Derby Virgin) to show the ways of Derbydom to. We DP's (Derby Pros) look forward to it!