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Organizers tout Isaac Murphy memorial garden

Building friends and funds and galvanizing the community for the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden project is the purpose of a free event scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Third Street and Midland Avenue.

David Cozart and Steve Austin, event organizers, are hoping that at least 200 people will show up at the sliver of land on Lexington's east end that is to become a permanent tribute to Murphy, an African-American and one of the all-time great jockeys.

There will be live jazz, an art exhibit, children's activities and food. Hall of Fame jockey Chris McCarron will be there. There also will be exhibit tables about other things going on in the east end of town.

"We will have a fabulous display about African-Americans in the Thoroughbred industry," said Austin, who is director of the Legacy Center at Blue Grass Community Foundation, which works to build public awareness and support for projects like the art garden.

"We're looking at it as a citywide event," he said.

Murphy lived in the area where the art garden in his honor is planned. He was the only jockey to win the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks and Clark Handicap in one year. That was 1884.

Organizers are hoping the event will inspire people, businesses and organizations to give money for the art garden, which is scheduled for completion by September 2010. They're hoping the event will lead to at least one major or "lead" donation.

"We have a very liberal projection of $2 million for the project," said Cozart, who is chairman of the board of Friends of the Isaac Murphy Memorial Art Garden, which is the host of Thursday's gathering. "We're not there ... We haven't gotten a significant percentage of it raised at this juncture."

Keeneland, Toyota and Fifth Third Bank have given money for the construction of the art garden, but a lot more is needed, he said.

"The design is complete," Austin said, "and it's really a handsome design."