By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
Dressed in handmade jockey silks and Derby hats, they lined up at the “starting gate” as the bugler played a Call to the Post.
Kid-sized feet, not hooves, pawed the ground in preparation for the starting signal. It was “the most exciting two minutes in Berea” as kindergarten students at Silver Creek Elementary School took off on the grassy track for the 28th annual “Little Kentucky Derby.”
Many eyes were glossed over with tears as this time-honored Bobcat tradition came to an end Friday. With the start of district-wide full-day kindergarten next year, Silver Creek kindergarteners will now attend the Shannon Johnson Kindergarten Academy about a mile away.
“The love and support of this tradition is one of the many ways the students, families, faculty and staff come together to form a true school community,” said kindergarten teacher Stephanie Lakes.
But, both students and teachers had another reason to feel bittersweet about the race.
The event was started 28 years ago by Sherry Duerson and Dianne Duerson. In 1991, Dianne was diagnosed with cancer and battled it on and off for 17 years while continuing to teach kindergarten. She passed away December 28, 2008, and Silver Creek’s fifth-grade class this year included the last students she taught.
In preparation for the race, kindergarteners learned about the history and traditions of the Derby as well as designed and created their own horse cutouts, jockey silks and derby hats.
All Silver Creek students learned and practiced “My Old Kentucky Home” and were encouraged to wear derby hats and attire as they attended the “Little Kentucky Derby.”
Jane Brandenburg, who was a secretary at the school for 31 years, has led the singing of “My Old Kentucky Home” all 28 years.
Next week, representatives from the Kentucky Derby Museum will conduct a presentation for students.