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Kentucky Derby: Old Traditions Never Die!

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The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the people are gay;
The corn-top’s ripe and the meadow’s in the bloom
While the birds make the music all the day…

My Old Kentucky Home by Stephen Foster

You may have recognized the above lyrics! “My Old Kentucky Home” was written by Stephen Foster and originated around 1921, the exact year is not determined. For some time now, the University of Louisville’s marching band has had the job of playing this song while the jockeys enter the stadium one by one from the paddock to the starting gate. A longstanding tradition that remains one of the most cherished!

The Kentucky Derby was first introduced in 1875 after Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. attended the Epson Derby in London and decided to bring it back to his hometown of Kentucky.  May 5th marks the date of the 138th Kentucky Derby, which is following the famous Grand National near Liverpool in England.

Traditions have long been around the Kentucky Derby and some are a century old! From roses to hats, these traditions are growing stronger and are here to stay.

What is the first thing you associate with the Kentucky Derby? I can bet many of you answered the crazy hats! At first, hats were worn solely for the purpose of sun protection. But over the years, with the many celebrities attending, we have seen the hats go from a simple protection to a fashion statement, the bigger the better!

Some may also know the Kentucky Derby as the “Run for the Roses”. At first roses were offered to women attending the Famous Derby party, but soon after, the roses were such a hit that the rose eventually became the races official flower. It took a couple of years, but in 1932 is when the lavish red rose garland was introduced and offered to the race’s winner. From then on, a garland, a crown and a bouquet of red roses is handed to the winner, every year there are about 470 red roses used!

Many moons ago, when horse racing was first introduced in the 18th century, fans had such a hard time differentiating which horse was which, and this is when silks (colors) were adopted to facilitate jockey differentiation. With today’s technology, silks are no longer necessary, but instead tradition stands and jockey’s now proudly represent their team’s color and print. Kentucky Derby winners gain certain perks, such as being offered exclusive colors to wear, such as devil’s red and blue calumet.

You may also be aware of the famous Kentucky Derby beverage, the Mint Julep. This whisky mint drink has been around for ages, and the whisky brand “Early Times Kentucky” saw an opportunity and created a ready-to-serve cocktail.

With funky hats, beautiful roses, mint julep and of course horses, I can understand why the Kentucky Derby is considered one of the most popular races worldwide! We leave you with a few lyrics from “My Old Kentucky Home”

We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.

My Old Kentucky Home by Stephen Foster

Any Kentucky Derby traditions you wish to share with us? Please comment below!


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