By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky. - Citing the state's strained finances, Gov. Paul Patton is dispensing with printed invitations for the traditional Governor's Derby Breakfast.
A Derby eve soiree for VIPs will be a fraction of its usual size. Yet, the show - some kind of show - must go on.
"Kentucky is dealing with a budget crisis that is the most severe in decades," Patton said in a statement announcing a leaner event in advance of the 129th Kentucky Derby. However, "our traditions become even more important in challenging times, and Derby is Kentucky's one day in the spotlight," Patton said.
The budget just passed by the General Assembly reduced appropriations for most state agencies, including Patton's office, through fiscal year 2004.
The state spent $100,000 on the Derby morning event last year, including $13,337 to print 45,000 breakfast invitations, according to the Finance Cabinet.
The invitations, which typically feature original artwork, have proven popular as souvenirs. Many were mailed, adding to the expense. Organizers this year - Patton's office, the local tourism commission and state Tourism Development Cabinet - are depending on word of mouth, news coverage and memories of Derby mornings past to generate a crowd.
Twenty thousand people turned out for last year's continental breakfast - muffins, Danish pastry, apples, juices and coffee. This year's event is again continental, and it will again be in downtown Frankfort, which is a boon for many merchants. The Frankfort-Franklin County Tourist and Convention Commission is picking up the tab - $20,000.
The governor's black-tie Derby eve gala drew 600 guests last year. This year, Patton and first lady Judi Patton will play host to 100 people.
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