The Richmond Register

May 5, 2013

Governor’s Derby Celebration starts off big day for state

By Ronnie Ellis
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — There were horse rides — both actual and stick — for children, music, races and even some princesses. Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear made a brief appearance.

A few hundred people, mostly locals, attended the Governor’s Downtown Derby Celebration Saturday morning before the main event in Louisville, the Kentucky Derby.

But it was a far cry from the public Derby Breakfasts which used to draw more than 10,000 to the state Capitol Grounds, where average Kentuckians from all over the state had the chance to meet their governor and other officials over a ham breakfast.

Beshear ended the breakfast tradition early in his first administration, citing the costs during a time of severe budget cuts. A reporter asked him Saturday if the breakfast will ever come back. But it was First Lady Jane Beshear who answered that it was so costly.

The Beshears walked three blocks along Broadway in downtown Frankfort Saturday morning, stopping to shake hands with some well-wishers. Beshear even stood astride a stick horse as he chatted with a toddler on hand.

Beshear also stopped to chat with Abraham Lincoln impersonator Jim Sayre, of nearby Lawrenceburg, and Joan Howard, of Frankfort, who was there as Mary Todd Lincoln.

“We’ve been invited for the last 25 years,” Howard explained, going back to the days of the Governor’s Derby Breakfast. “When they moved it downtown, they asked us to come here, too.”

Shortly after their chat, the Beshears hopped into their black SUV and departed.

One who used to revel in the Derby Breakfast, former Gov. Paul Patton, sat on a bench near Poor Richard’s Bookstore on Broadway, clearly enjoying himself and welcoming with a smile all the well-wishers who stopped to shake his hand.

“I’m just sitting here watching the world go by,” Patton said with a smile between sips from his coffee. Later he walked through the crowd, along the sidewalk, smiling and greeting passersby as the Derby Train taking revelers from central Kentucky to Churchill Downs rolled along the tracks that split Broadway down the middle of the street in the retail section of Frankfort.

A ride on the Derby Train is still coveted by many, and those on board often are friends of the governor or powerful political and economic interests. But Beshear reportedly didn’t travel on the train this year, though CNHI News couldn’t definitively confirm that.

After the train passed, four-year-old Sophia Raymer of Louisville was greeted by three young women in ante-bellum, full-length gowns, greeters who walked through Saturday’s crowd. She was more impressed with the young women than the governor.

“She came up here to see the (children’s) races,” said Dennis Raymer, Sophia’s granddad. “But she didn’t know there were princesses. She’s in love with princesses!”

Despite weather forecasts for rain, there were only a few infrequent splatters of rain drops, not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of children running races through the street, escorted by a Frankfort Police Department cruiser or those just out walking about.

There were pony rides and inflatable games for the little ones and live music for the older ones, crafts and lots of traffic for downtown retail businesses. There were even a few Derby hats.

But it didn’t have the feel of the past Derby Breakfasts where visitors encountered their governor and other state officials as well as friends from across the state, from Corbin and Catlettsburg to Crittenden County.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.