In the 2008 pre-race ceremony, crew members and Mdr. Benjamin Pearson, commanding officer of the ballistic missile submarine USS Kentucky, walked this wreath of roses to the track. The Derby is frequently referred to as "The Run for the Roses." The tradition of roses allegedly originated in 1883 when a New York socialite presented roses to female guests at a post-Derby party attended by the founder of Churchill Downs.
Hats are Part of the Tradition for Ladies on Derby Day
Churchill Downs is a Mecca for fancy hats on Derby Day, when ladies don their finest headwear for the day. There's no doubt that shops have a flurry of activity prior to the big day. Most men also wear a far more formal look than for other sporting events. Stylish ticket-holders usually enjoy the race's signature cocktail, Kentucky's own mint julep, the recipe of which is here.
While the grandstand is all about fancy hats and three-piece suits, the infield at Churchill Downs becomes one giant tailgate party. With an anything goes attitude, the revelries here are thought to rival those of Mardi Gras. If you're watching the derby with kids, there's an infield section geared toward families as well.
The Kentucky Derby is also called The Race for the Roses, and here's why . . . the winning horse is draped with a lush blanket of 554 roses to celebrate the win. This wonderful photogenic (and fragrant) component of the race has helped its renown.
If you can't make the big event, you can still get a taste of Kentucky Derby heritage with a visit to the Kentucky Derby Museum at the Churchill Downs. Learn all about the history of the race, admire the gallery of derby fashion and experience the trill of the race on a derby simulator.