Kentucky April 20, 2016
16 Unforgettable Things Everyone Must Do During Kentucky Derby Week
It is a special time in the Bluegrass State, as the 142
nd Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville is rapidly approaching. The festival has become our state’s biggest tradition, and a lot of preparation is done to accommodate the varied masses who attend. From April 23 rd till May 7 th, Louisville becomes a haven for celebrities, millionaires, heirs, heiresses, partiers, musicians and horse enthusiasts from around the globe. Political and religious differences are all set aside in the name of Thoroughbred racing, gambling and bourbon, for what I like to affectionately call, the Hillbilly Mardi Gras.
A big part of the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville is combining mini fests that last a few days in the same general area, and making them accessible via a 2016 Pegasus Pin. The exception is in the case of black tie events, where dinner is included in ticket pricing.
Here are 16 events to consider at the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville:
16 and 15: Thunder Over Louisville
Thunder kicks things off on April 23rd at 11 a.m. with Thunder on the Ground. This part of Thunder day offers an interactive play area for the little ones from 11 a.m. till 11 p.m., along with food, a beer tent and a beautiful view of the world’s largest fireworks display, Thunder Over Louisville.
This is the 27th annual Thunder Over Louisville and the theme will be, “No Strings Attached.” Zambelli Internationale will be handling the visual presentations again and promises we’ll have another amazing year of colorful explosions in the sky.
14. Come one, come all, entertainment varies.
There is not a consistent standard when it comes to the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville. Some folks dress to the nines, attending lavish functions. However, others wear self created hats that look to be comprised of flea market paraphernalia and appear randomly. Even if you don’t like horse racing, this city does its best to make sure there is something to enjoy during the festivities. There are dinners, parties, contests, tastings, music, and everything that makes for a good festival combined in one giant event.
13. Great Steamboat Race
This traditional race was a part of the festival from 1963 till 2009, when for some reason they altered the rules. Now, instead of the winner being based on speed and agility, it is based on the crew’s ability to perform five specific tasks in competition with the Cincinnati Belle. It is still a fun ride to take and enjoy a delicious dinner. Pricing to catch the Belle of Louisville is $135, and the Cincinnati Belle is $85. Both include dinner and entertainment. The event starts at 6 p.m., but boarding begins at 4:30 p.m.. Anyone can watch from the river park using a Pegasus Pin.
12. Taste of Derby
This 17th annual Taste of Derby charitable event introduces you to all things Derby, from food, to drinks to art and entertainment. Those who attend will find samplings of over 65 signature dishes from some of our more renowned restaurants. There will be a Bloody Mary contest, bourbon and wine tasting and a silent auction with some very interesting items available. The proceeds go to the Dare to Care Foundations, helping disabled individuals. It begins at 5:30 pm and continues till 8:30 pm at Louisville’s Slugger Field at 401 E Main Street. Tickets are $80, but $50 is goes to Dare to Care’s food bank.
Starting April 28th and continuing till May 6th, the Louisville Waterfront becomes a bee hive of activities for Derby enthusiasts. Each day there will be concerts, food and drinks. Fest-a-Ville is the place for kids also. Parents will find carnival rides, bounce houses, and plenty of games to occupy the little ones. Those who don’t fear heights will find helicopter rides available for $40. It provides a grand aerial view of Louisville, Southern Indiana and the rolling Ohio River.
10 and 9. Great Balloon Fest
Louisville’s Waterfront Park hosts this 3 day event starting with a mini glow on Thursday, April 28th at Waterfront Park during the Kroger Fest-a-Ville Derby celebration. The Glimmer begins starting at 8:30pm.
April 29th is the Great Balloon Rush Hour Race at 7 am, which is more of a pre-race. It is followed by the Balloon Glow at 9 pm. The Glow is a much more extended version of the Glimmer, offering an almost romantic ambiance. It can be a mesmerizing experience for any age.
The final Balloon Race begins with a 7 am liftoff on April 30th and continues till the balloons reach their targeted destination for the big finish!
8. Chow Wagon
Festival food and games are always a big draw. On April 28th, the WaterFront Park is busting out one of the best parts of the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Chow Wagon. Now this is no little food truck with insanely long lines. This is a barrage of vendors with homemade goodness, like country fried steak, turkey legs, or a barbecue sandwich. There is also a wide selection of carnival food that is horribly bad for you, but incredibly tasty too, like funnel cakes, fried everything, and overpriced frozen drinks.
The Chow Wagon runs April 28th through May 6th at Louisville Waterfront Park. The scheduled hours are 11 am to 11 pm Monday through Friday, and noon to 11 pm on Sunday. The Miller Lite Music Stage, which is part of the Waterfront Jam, is located in this area.
7. Waterfront Jam
Starting on April 29th and continuing till May 6th there will be a series of concerts at the Waterfront Park. Live music is performed on two separate locations in the park celebrating the Fest-a-Ville. There will be 7 national acts, along with over 30 local and regional bands performing a variety of genres. Just check the schedule on the KDF website provided and you can determine if you want to see Country, Rock, Reggae, Gospel or something different. The Waterfront Jam has music for everyone, regardless of your taste.
6. Wine Festival
This event is all about Kentucky and Indiana wine. We hear a lot about bourbon, but our state has over 66 local wineries. There will be 30 more winery participates from Indiana. This grape celebration takes place May 3rd and 4th from 5 pm till 9 pm at the Belvedere, on 129 River Road. Tickets are $45, but you are guaranteed to experience some delightful vintages you won’t find anywhere else.
5. Great Bed Race
This annual event takes place on May 2nd at the Louisville Fair and Expo Center on 937 Phillips Lane. The tailgate party starts at 4 pm. The Parade of Beds will begin at 6 pm, which introduces the crowd to the teams and their themes.The official race at 7.
If you aren’t into watching horses, you might find representatives from different companies dressed in costumes more appealing. They alter a bed, 4 people push and one rides to drive across the finish line. Proceeds are split between the Derby Festival and charity. There tends to be a minimum of 40 teams competing during this event, which can get a little insane, as there are awards for best costumes, decorations and most entertaining team also.
4. Pegasus Parade
The Annual Pegasus Parade will be held on Thursday May 5th at 5 pm and will begin on Broadway at Baxter. The parade travels 17 blocks and lasts about two hours. This year’s theme is “Fun For the Arts.”
The Pegasus Parade is the longest running event featured during the Derby Festival. It has all the perks of a entertaining parade including giant inflatable characters, creative floats, music, entertainers and more. The event has been an active part of the celebration since its humble beginning in 1956… on a mere $640 budget. In 2016, the parade provides a guestimated $22 million to Louisville’s economy, though it is free to watch.
3. Kentucky Oaks
The Oaks is the 4th highest attended horse race in the world and will be run Friday, May 6th this year. This race is for the fillies, literally. It is a great way to get a feel for what the Derby will be like, but on a much calmer level.
2. Festive parties
People can be a little more colorful than normal with pre and post parties going on all around Louisville during the festival. We likely all know, or knew someone that use to celebrate Derby just to celebrate. The Fourth Street Live area in Downtown Louisville is a popular gathering spot, offering a variety of restaurants and venues to spend your winnings. The Downtown area along Main, Market and Fourth Streets will be the happening spots throughout festival.
1. Kentucky Derby
The 142nd Kentucky Derby will be held on May 7th this year. If you have never attended the event, it might be a shock to your system. This race has been deemed “the greatest 2 minutes in sports,” and begins at 6:34 pm. There will be nine races prior to the Derby, and two more afterwards for a total of around 14 races.
This is just the literal tip of the Derby track. This annual celebration allows our city to relish in a diverse mix of cultures, activities and… celebrations. You might even hear: “What happens at Derby, stays at Derby.” Whether you believe that or not, you will find more events listed on the
Kentucky Derby site. What is your favorite thing to do during the Kentucky Derby Festival in Louisville?