The flowers that will arrive at the Delaware County Fairground throughout the week were probably “growing in the fields” two days ago, according to Janice Hughes.
Hughes is one of the Kroger employees who creates blankets and bouquets out of the flowers to be given to the winners of the horse races.
Great care is taken to maintain the flowers’ freshness, she said. They are brought straight from the airport to the fairgrounds where they are cut under water, wired, taped to water picks, and placed in refrigeration.
Hughes works alongside Henri Rengert and Nori Edgell, and her daughter, Samantha Hughes, to create the blankets and bouquets.
“Kroger’s has always been involved with the fair … they’re so grateful with the community for shopping here that this is their way of giving back,” explained Rengert.
The blankets created for the Jug and the Jugette are the most time consuming, and breathtaking, of the group’s creations. The Jug’s blanket contains at least 400 yellow roses while the Jugette’s contains at least 375 pink roses.
Although completing the blankets and bouquets entails long days for the ladies, they all said that they love being involved. “I think my favorite part is the people,” said Rengert. “Just seeing all the people from all over the world. I just can’t get over how this little town of Delaware can put on this function with people from all over the world.”
“I just love it all,” said Hughes. “I get stressed about it, but it’s a lot of fun.”
Edgell’s favorite part is delivering the blankets, while this is the hardest part for Hughes who said, as the winner walks away with the blanket, she thinks “that’s my baby.”
In a few days, the blankets and bouquets will be gone, but it will not be long before the group begins to plan for next year’s races. They will map out their designs, place their flower orders and do all of the necessary preparation to maintain what has become a proud tradition for them. “It’s been an honor to do it,” said Hughes.
Megan Neary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.