2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Sprigs of fresh mint
Make a simple syrup by boiling sugar and water together for five minutes. Cool and place in a covered container with six or eight sprigs of fresh mint, then refrigerate overnight. Make one julep at a time by filling a julep cup with crushed ice, adding one tablespoon mint syrup and two ounces of Kentucky Whisky. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost the outside of the cup. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
Garland of Roses
The original type of rose garland first appeared in 1896 when the winner, Ben Brush, received a floral arrangement of white and pink roses.
Each year, a garland of 554 red roses is sewn into a green satin backing with the seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky on one end and the twin spires and number of the running on the other. Each garland is also adorned with a "Crown" of roses, green fern and ribbon. The "Crown", a single rose pointing upward in the center of the garland, symbolizes the struggle and heart necessary to reach the winners' circle.
The Kroger Company has been the official florist of the Kentucky Derby since 1987. After taking over the duties from the Kingsley Walker florist, Kroger began constructing the prestigious garland in one of its local stores for the public to view on Derby Eve.
My Old Kentucky Home
By Stephen Foster
Although there is no firm date showing when the Stephen Foster ballad started as a Derby Day tradition it is believed to have begun in 1921. The Courier-Journal in their May 8, 1921 edition reported, "To the strains of "My Old Kentucky Home" Kentuckians gave vent their delight. For Kentucky triumphed in the Derby." The story refers to the victory of Behave Yourself, a horse born and bred in Kentucky.
Since 1936, with only a few exceptions, the song has been performed by the University of Louisville Marching Band.
The song describes a scene of life on a slave plantation and the original lyrics were altered by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1986 so as not to “convey connotations of racial discrimination that are not acceptable”. The word “darkies” from the original below was changed to “people” in the altered version. This is just the first verse and chorus, the part that is sung during the post parade for the Derby.
The sun shines bright in the old Kentucky home,
Tis summer, the darkies are gay;
The corn-top's ripe and the meadow's in the bloom
While the birds make music all the day.
The young folks roll on the little cabin floor
All merry, all happy and bright;
By'n by hard times comes a knocking at the door
Then my old Kentucky home, Good-night!
Weep no more my lady
Oh! weep no more today!
We will sing one song for my old Kentucky home
For the old Kentucky home, far away.
There are so many more traditions associated with the Derby that I just didn't have time to get to, but I hope you've enjoyed reading about the ones I covered. And if you're serious about following all the Derby coverage, there's an app for that:
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Please don't forget about The Kentucky Derby Contest Of Awesome. Entries must be received by midnight on Saturday, April 30th, and I'll contact the winner on May 1st with all kinds of helpful tidbits on picking their Derby horse.