4 Kentucky Derby Traditions Explained

As we’ve mentioned before, the Kentucky Derby is one of the world’s most prestigious events. Not only is it a weekend full of excitement, history, and luxury, but it also is a gathering with many long-standing traditions. Though many of these traditions seem quite natural and like they require no explanation—simply because they’ve been happening for years now—upon closer examination, their origins aren’t always that clear. In this blog, Superior Executive Services would like to turn our focus on some of the most popular Kentucky Derby traditions.

Why the Roses?

The Kentucky Derby is often referred to as the running of the roses. But have you ever considered why? Sure, we know that the fastest horse is given a garland of roses, but why? The tradition of awarding the winner with a rose began in the 1800s, but the full arrangement began in 1932 when the winner received a garland of roses from a local florist, thus, initiating a new tradition. The single rose that points up from the center of the garland is intended to symbolize the “struggle and heart necessary to reach the Derby Winner’s Circle.” To learn more about this tradition check out this video.

Why the Big Hats?

Unlike other sporting events, where you might throw on your favorite player’s jersey or paint your face, the derby doesn’t offer this sort of opportunity. Instead, derby garb is typically associated with wealth, posh fashion, and big hats. The most likely explanation for the big hats dates back to the 1870s when founder Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr. sought to transform the Churchill Downs event from a place for seedy patrons to a place for high society and, therefore, high fashion. He and his wife set out on a campaign to get Louisville’s upper class to attend the event. Within a few years, their effort paid off, and the derby became a regal affair where both men and women flaunted their finest threads.

Over time the media took a great interest in who was attending and what they were wearing, inspiring attendees to do all they could to stand out among a well-dressed crowd—i.e. wear big hats. Nowadays, the tradition of big hats continues to be a reliable part of the Kentucky Derby, with patrons sporting bigger, more flamboyant hats each year.

Why the Mint Juleps?

Made of Kentucky bourbon, Curacao, Renet-Branca, Demerara syrup, and mint leaves, mint juleps are without a doubt the drink of the Kentucky Derby. You are sure to see one or two of these being consumed at the race. In fact, it is estimated the derby goers drink almost 120,000 over the course of the Kentucky Derby weekend. Though the reason for this drink’s success is unclear, we do know that it has been the star drink of the Kentucky Derby since 1938. This may be one of those cases where the simplest origin explanation is also the best explanation: it’s a drink that highlights the magic of Kentucky Bourbon, and it’s delicious—simple enough.

Why the Celebrities?

Throughout the years, the derby has had a special appeal to celebrities, and the reason for this is quite simple: it is one of the world’s most prestigious events. With a rich history, electric atmosphere, and a label like “the most exciting two minutes in sports,” who wouldn’t want to go? Plus, someone has to buy those $1,000 mint juleps (proceeds go to charity) and $15,000 Mansion seats.

Want to experience the derby like a celebrity? Superior Executive Services can make this happen. Not only do we offer the opportunity to charter a private jet, but we also offer a range of packages and amenities that’ll allow you and your guests to experience the event in total style.

Whether you are looking to reward key clients or treat your employees to an unforgettable company retreat, our team of professionals goes above and beyond to provide premier corporate hospitality and entertainment.

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