Roses Stand Out At the Derby

By Justine Frostad — 05/05/11

It takes a lot of roses to decorate “The Run For The Roses.” That is what some people call the Kentucky Derby. Thousands of roses are sorted through by hand to make sure the best of the best are selected for the decoration. Volunteers and Kroger grocery employees went to the Kroger Rose Garland Production Site in Louisville to sort and arrange the flowers.
Over thirty people were hard at work selecting, cutting and primping the roses and lilies. Saturday a garland of roses will be given to the winner of the Kentucky Derby while on Friday a garland of lilies is given to the winner of the Kentucky Oaks.
Carol Belser works for the Kroger company and is the lead designer of the rose garland. She has been doing the garlands for over 20 years. This year the fresh roses were shipped in from Ecuador and Belser said once they arrived the team started looking for a specific kind of rose.
“We look at the shape of the rose, the quality, the size and a deep color,” she said, “so there are a lot of things that determine a perfect rose for the rose garland.”
The team goes through different stages of judging the roses.
“The reason for the different stages is a rose changes its characteristics overnight,” she said, “so it might look one way today but it’ll look like something else tomorrow.”
About 500 roses are used for the garland. The number varies because there is a crown made of roses in the mid-section of the garland that holds one rose for each horse. So if there are 20 horses racing in the Derby, that’s how many roses will be featured in the crown.
Alice Colombo also works on the garlands and she said considering the magnitude of Derby Day there is pressure to make sure the roses look perfect.
“Every year it seems like we have a crisis,” she said. “We always worry when we open the roses that they aren’t pretty enough that year, but it always works out in the end.”
But they have to accept that every rose has its thorn…even at the Kentucky Derby.