FRANKFORT, Ky. — Students in 54 Kentucky classrooms painted Derby-themed canvases that will adorn picnic tables May 3 as part of the annual Governor's Derby Celebration.

The blankets, distributed to schools by the Kentucky Arts Council in early April, have become a celebrated tradition since the project started five years ago, with hundreds of students participating each year. Ranging from fun and whimsical to intricate and detailed, the finished "Derby blankets" are placed atop picnic tables that have been converted into "horses" with an attached head and tail.

"The Derby blanket project is not only a great way to incorporate arts education into the classroom, but also a fun way for students to participate in Derby festivities," said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. "The children are always very proud of the finished canvases on display at the Governor's celebration."

In years past, the blankets have taken on bigger meaning as classrooms have used them to honor fellow classmates or causes. In 2012, students from Knox County Middle School dedicated their blanket to a classmate who had died earlier in the semester by using an enlarged version of the student's notebook doodle as their design. Last year, students from Jacob Elementary School in Louisville used their blanket to promote autism awareness.

This year, Knox County Middle School again dedicated their hand-painted design to a fellow student. The school's purple and yellow blanket is dedicated to Harley Laxton, a seventh-grade classmate who is undergoing treatment for cancer.

Other participating schools are:

  • Auburn School, Auburn
  • Bate Middle School, Danville
  • Bloom Elementary School, Louisville
  • Boyd County Schools, Ashland
  • Bremen Elementary School, Bremen
  • Camp Taylor Elementary, Louisville
  • Christ the King School, Madisonville
  • Cumberland County Elementary School, Burkesville
  • East Jessamine Middle School, Nicholasville
  • Estill Springs Elementary School, Irvine
  • EKU Model Laboratory School, Richmond
  • Garden Springs Elementary School, Lexington
  • Johnson Central High School, Paintsville
  • Meadowthorpe Elementary School, Lexington
  • Memorial School, Hardyville
  • Mercer County Intermediate School, Harrodsburg
  • Metcalfe High School, Edmonton
  • New Haven Elementary, Union
  • Noe Middle School, Louisville
  • North Bullitt High School, Shepherdsville
  • Ohio County Middle School, Hartford
  • Pleasure Ridge Park High School, Louisville
  • Price Elementary School, Louisville
  • Pride Ave. Elementary, Madisonville
  • Ramsey Middle School, Louisville
  • Reidland Elementary and Middle Schools, Paducah
  • Roberston County Schools, Mount Olivet
  • Sandersville Elementary, Lexington
  • Sayre Middle School, Lexington
  • Seton Catholic, Lexington
  • Shelby County High School, Shelbyville
  • Shelby County Public Schools, Shelbyville
  • Summit Christian Academy, Lexington
  • Tully ES School, Louisville
  • Waller Williams Environmental School, Louisville
  • Washington County Board of Education, Springfield
  • Walker Early Elementary Learning Center, Monticello
  • Whitley City Elementary School, Whitley City
  • Woodland Elementary, Radcliff
  • Wright Elementary, Fort Wright
  • Morgantown Elementary, Morgantown

The Governor's Derby Celebration is 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 3 in downtown Frankfort. The Derby blankets, coordinated by the arts council on behalf of Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, will be on picnic tables on the Old State Capitol lawn. View photos of the Derby blankets on the arts council's Facebook page.

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, creates opportunities for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: High resolution images are available upon request.

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