465 Roses Were Used to Craft the Garland at Kentucky Derby This Year- Here’s Everything You Need to Know About This Tradition

Published 05/09/2022, 10:00 AM EDT

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Traditions are a part of a community, and every place has its cultural traditions. Years of tradition seep into the community and form the pillar of the very society. These traditions are a crucial aspect of each community, and people cling to them to remind themselves of their roots. Such an event is the Kentucky Derby, an annual horse race held in the Bluegrass State.

This race marks the completion of the Kentucky Derby Festival.


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Significance of the Garland of Roses at the Kentucky Derby

Traditions establish customs guarded by the community at large. These customs form the backbone of such events. Likewise, the Kentucky Derby has its own set of practices to uphold.

One such tradition that has interwoven with the race is the Garland of Roses. The iconic garland is why the race has been nicknamed the “Run for the Roses.” The term was first coined by New York sports columnist Bill Corum in 1925. Apart from this fact, the garland shares quite an intriguing history.


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Meriwether Lewis Clark, founder, and president of Churchill Downs declared roses the official flower of the Kentucky Derby. The New York socialite E. Berry Wall inspired Clark by distributing roses among women during a party in 1883. Roses have been the symbol of the race ever since.

The garland is awarded to the champion of the Kentucky Derby in the winner’s circle.

In 1896, the tradition of presenting the garland of roses to the champion began. That year, Ben Brush won the race, and he received an assortment of white and pink roses.

The modern version of the garland, crafted with assembled roses to form a blanket-like structure, dates back to 1932. The winner, Burgoo King, was presented the honors that year.

How did the modern-day garland come to be?

In 1932, Grace Kingsley Walker designed the first garland, and Churchill Downs used the services of their flower shop, Kingsley Walker florist, to craft the structure each year until 1986.

The Kroger Company took over the task in 1987, and they have been making the prestigious garland for the Kentucky Derby ever since.

via Reuters

The blanket of garland comprises more than 400 roses weaved into a green satin cloth. This year, about 465 roses were used for the garland as confirmed by Kroger Derby Coordinator, Allison Gousha.


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“We’ll get in around 5000 roses [and] we’ll use around 465,” she said, confirming the arduousness of the task.

Furthermore, the fabric contains the Commonwealth seal and Twin Spires on each end. It also includes the current number of the race printed alongside the Twin Spires.


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Apart from the roses, ferns and ribbons adorn the garland. Additionally, it also comprises a crown of one rose set high in the center that points towards the sky.


Written by:

Aklanta Chetia


One take at a time

Aklanta Chetia Wanniang is a US Sports author for EssentiallySports. He has a Master's degree in Literature from the University of Delhi. With an interest in learning about multiple sports, Aklanta himself is a former sportsperson and has participated in state and national level swimming events.
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Edited by:

Simar Singh Wadhwa