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Join a few thousand of your friends at Saturday’s annual Governor’s Derby Celebration in Frankfort

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT – Memories are waiting to be made with a few thousand friends at the annual Governor’s Derby Celebration in downtown Frankfort on Saturday.

“Glenna and I hope to see you there,” said Gov. Matt Bevin.

The family-friendly event has a long, festive tradition beginning on the first Saturday in May way back in 1935 when then-Gov. A. B. “Happy” Chandler hosted the Governor’s Derby Breakfast for a few of his friends in the Governor’s Mansion.

It grew over the years, so by the time of Julian Carroll’s administration the invitation-only event had swelled into the thousands. That’s when they started using the huge tents that took over the main parking lot beside the Capitol.

Downtown Frankfort will be a buzz of activity as families attend the annual Governor’s Derby Celebration on Saturday, May 6. In this file photo, adults prepare to compete in the “Pedal for the Posies” race. (Downtown Frankfort, Inc. photo)

People would stand in long lines just to shake hands with politicians and celebrities. Then, enjoy a breakfast of country ham, bacon, grits and eggs prepared by the Department of Parks.

Gov. John Y. Brown, Jr. added his touch by including arts and crafts at the event. Later, Gov. Martha Layne Collins added good ‘ol Kentucky entertainment such as cloggers, musicians and tossed in some activities for the kids to round out the festivities.

Due to the escalating costs and a tight state budget, Gov. Steve Beshear moved the Derby celebration in 2011 to its present-day location and reduced the cost dramatically.

Some of Saturday’s highlights include the 6th annual YMCA Derby Dash for children ages 2-12 beginning at 9 a.m. For the adults, there’s a tricycle race called Pedal for the Posies. And be sure to visit the Old Capitol Lawn for a variety of activities, such as make-and-take Derby hat.

On the stage at the Old Capitol will be free performances by the Frankfort School of Ballet, the Kentucky State University Commercial Music Ensemble, and Phat Mattress.

The Salato Wildlife Center will have a display of live animals, there will be stick horse racing for all ages, pony rides and more. The farmers’ market will also be open.

One of the most popular and photographed group is the Derby Belles, local high school students wearing antebellum dresses, who have handed out programs and candy since the 1970s.

Megan Greenwell of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet said downtown restaurants and many retail stores will also be open throughout the event, which ends at 1 p.m.

“We just want people to have fun and enjoy the downtown festivities,” said Greenwell. “Having a great time is making memories for your family, and this is an occasion to do just that.”

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One Comment

  1. Kentucky Citizen says:

    It is stunning that in the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky, there’s not one (or two or three) corporations willing to step up and sponsor breakfast for this annual event. Has anyone bothered to solicit sponsorships? The Kentucky Derby is Kentucky’s day to shine and this could be a much better event if the breakfast was once again available. The legislature can find money for all sorts of pet projects but not this worthwhile event?

    For that matter, there could be a charge of $5 that most people would gladly pay for some type of breakfast. Otherwise, cancel the entire event. It’s really weak as it is. Step up, Governor. Put a little effort into it. Is this the best Frankfort can do?

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