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    Kroger Kicking off Kentucky Derby

    Grocer’s crafting of winner’s garland has become event in itself

    For the 26th consecutive year, the winning thoroughbred of the Kentucky Derby will sport the famous“Garland of Roses” created by master floral designers from The Kroger Co. This year’s derby is scheduled for May 5.

    In anticipation of the big race, visitors can watch Kroger’s team of floral designers make the garland at the Kroger store on 12501 Shelbyville Road in Louisville, Ky., between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Derby Eve. Last year, more than 6,000 people attended the all-night event. The completed garland will be displayed at the store until 8:30 a.m. Derby Day.

    “The Garland of Roses is such a recognized symbol of the Kentucky Derby that its very creation has become a Derby tradition in its own right,” noted Kroger master florist Carol Belser. “We take great pride in delivering the garland each year, and it is a thrill to see our team of floral designers’ craftsmanship televised around the world on Derby Day.”

    It will take almost one dozen master florists about seven hours to put together the garland, which will measure 122 inches long by 22 inches wide, weigh around 40 pounds, and contain more than 400 roses. To complete the design, a crown of roses, greenery and ribbons that represent each thoroughbred running in the race will be placed at the garland’s center. The item is made entirely of Freedom roses, a variety chosen for its rich red color, bloom size, stem length and foliage. At 8:45 a.m. Derby Morning, the garland, along with the Jockey’s Bouquet, will be brought to Churchill Downs with a police escort, where it will be on display in the Clubhouse Gardens from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

    The Garland of Roses has been a tradition of the Kentucky Derby since 1932, when the first garland was designed by Louisville resident Grace Walker at the request of Churchill Downs. Before that, winners were draped with a horseshoe-shaped wreath of roses.

    Additionally, the grocery chain will create the Oaks Garland for the 22nd straight year. The crafting event is also open to the public at the Shelbyville Road Kroger from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 3. The Oaks Garland is 126 inches long and 20 inches wide. It weighs about 20 pounds and features 160 hand-sewn white Star Fighter Lilies trimmed in a border of oak ivy leaves.

    The world’s largest florist, Cincinnati-based Kroger, along with its Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith’s banners, provides customers with fresh flowers for all occasions. For Mother’s Day on May 13, the company has a variety of specially themed bouquets available in stores nationwide, online and by phone at 800-900-6575. Kroger’s Mid South Division is based in Louisville and includes 162 stores in Kentucky, Tennessee, south Indiana and south Illinois.

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