It is no secret that the thousands of colorful tulips that emerge from the flowerbeds leading up to the Capitol make a beautiful backdrop for spring photos. And yet it happens every year: Someone gets the bright idea that they can get a better shot if their subjects stand in the middle of the circle of flowers and the tulips get trampled.

Not only does this kill the flowers and make the grounds less aesthetically pleasing, but it takes valuable funding from community food banks and organizations in need, such as ACCESS Soup Kitchen and Men’s Shelter.

You see, for the past 10 years when the state takes up the tulips during the week before the Kentucky Derby, which falls annually on the first Saturday in May, it donates the bulbs to nonprofits that sell them to raise money for food pantries and service projects.

“Tulips are symbolic of the renewal and beauty of spring, and we are pleased to share the bulbs previously planted at the Capitol with community food banks and charitable groups,” said former First Lady Jane Beshear, mother of current Gov. Andy Beshear, who started the program in 2011 after she found out the tulips were being discarded.

“This recycling effort is an easy and effective way to extend the life of the tulips for a good cause and encourage others to help pay it forward.”

The bulbs displayed in the Capital Avenue flowerbeds are selected for their growth habit, color and time of bloom. After the first year, they still produce flowers but are not consistent in growth habit or bloom time.

These specialty tulips, which usually cost $6-$9 per bulb and are a part of history since they were previously planted outside the Capitol, are donated to nonprofit organizations that sell them for $1 each.

In addition to ACCESS Soup Kitchen and Men’s Shelter, other groups who have benefited from the bulb sale include the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, Morehead Community Soup Kitchen and Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky.

While enjoying the beauty on the Capitol grounds please don't trample the tulips. Their value is priceless to those in need.

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