Before the Kentucky Derby, begins the people of Louisville, and spectators from all around the world, can enjoy the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival, which has a program that offers something for everyone, from crazy parades and parties, to relaxed spectacles and community spaces. It isn’t possible to be everywhere at once, but there are some events during the festival that simply cannot be missed.
The Thunder Over Louisville is widely regarded as the opening event of the Kentucky Derby Festival, and it really does start things off with a bang! Taking place on April 22nd, and in its 28th year, this is the nation’s largest fireworks display. Around 60 tons of firework shells blow up in a colorful smoke for your entertainment. In the daytime, impressive airshows dominate the sky, so find a nice place to settle down and don’t forget to look up.
Another event in the skies, and perhaps more relaxing than the exhilaration of the Thunder opening ceremony, is the Great BalloonFest from April 27th – 29th. This day brings a combination of the Great Balloon Race, Great Balloon Glow and other events that will captivate imaginations young and old. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see hundreds of balloons taking to the skies at the same time.
Sports lovers can rejoice on Saturday April 29th, as a full marathon takes place on the streets of Louisville. Anyone can register for the event and pick of their marathon package a day or two before the race starts. If you don’t want to participate, the spectator atmosphere along the racecourse is exciting enough. There are also mini-marathons and team racing events for less serious runners who still want to get involved.
Poker lovers can take part in a pretty interesting game of Texas Hold’Em aboard the Belle of Cincinnati boat on May 2nd. The game starts at 6pm, and has a pretty neat prize pool, with a $125 buy in and $40 add-on. Up to 325 participants can take place, and there is a guaranteed $5,000 for first place. The tournament would make great practice for aspiring pros who are looking to enter the 888 WSOP at the end of May. For those who don’t care for winnings, there is also a charity tournament held at the Horseshoe Southern Indiana. Proceeds are given to the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation.
The Kentucky Derby Festival closes with the Pegasus Parade, the festival’s oldest event which has been going strong since its inception in 1956. When it first began, the parade had a meagre budget of just $640. Now, it is one of the largest parades in the country, and features marching bands, floats, performances and mighty fine equestrian units.
There are many other events to watch out for around the city of Louisville during the festival, including sports and health events, concerts and parties, lots of nice food and eating events, and a steamboat race.
One of the most important aspects of the Kentucky Derby Festival, is the community side. ‘Give A Day’ will once again be on the event calendar for a full week between April 15th -23rd. Organizations and non-profit organizations can offer projects that they need help with, and individuals, teams and businesses can offer up a day of volunteering to help to get it done.
The Kentucky Derby 2017 itself, the main event in which horse racing lovers finally get what they have been waiting for, takes place on May 6th. We can’t wait.