From Thunder Over Louisville to the parade, 2023's top 15 Kentucky Derby Festival events
What other city besides Louisville turns a two-minute horse race into a month-long party?
The Kentucky Derby Festival is a community celebration packed with more than 70 events leading up to the first Saturday in May. And while Churchill Downs Racetrack might be the expert on racing horses at the Kentucky Derby, the Festival races everything from people, beds and steamboats.
Basketball legend Magic Johnson once said, "Derby time in Louisville is like the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras all rolled into one."
Here's a look at 15+ events on the 2023 Kentucky Derby Festival’s Official Schedule of Events to experience this spring:
Festival Unveiled Presented By Four Roses Bourbon
WHAT: Get a first look at the 2023 Official Derby Festival Poster and merchandise at the debut event of the Derby Festival season. Enjoy signature bourbon cocktails, Kentucky-inspired cuisine, and the annual Four Roses Bourbon Rose Julep Cocktail Competition.
WHEN: March 16, 6-9 p.m.
WHERE: Mellwood Art Center, 1860 Mellwood Ave.
COST: $50 general admission; $70 VIP (includes the complete event experience, plus early access at 5 p.m., an exclusive Four Roses Bourbon Mint Julep Making Experience, photo opportunities, souvenir glass, Official Poster Pin and a VIP gift.)
Dillard's Spring Fashion Show
WHAT: See the latest spring fashion trends and accessories for the Kentucky Derby season from Dillard's and local boutiques come down the runway at this annual style extravaganza. For ages 21 and older.
WHEN: March 30. Boutique shopping and cocktails at 5 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. and the fashion show at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Caesars Southern Indiana, 11999 Casino Center Drive, Elizabeth, Indiana
COST: $65 per person for balcony seating and includes hors d’oeuvres and two drink tickets; showroom/main floor seats are sold out.
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Zoeller Pump Company Touring Parade
WHAT: The touring parade will help kick-start the Festival celebrations. The traveling display will drive around the community and will feature about two dozen units riding through neighborhood streets.
WHEN: April 1, 12-6 p.m.
WHERE: Areas and neighborhoods where the parade will travel.
Noon: Leaves Ballard High School
Between noon and 1:30 p.m.: Graymoor-Devondale, Lyndon, Norwood, Beechwood Village, Woodlawn Park, Bellewood, Druid Hills, St. Matthews and Broadfield
Between 1:45 and 3 p.m.: Seneca Park, Seneca Gardens, Belknap, Strathmoor Village, Hawthorne, Wellington, Strathmoor Manor, Deer Park, Cherokee Park, Cherokee Triangle, Highlands-Douglass, Bonnycastle, Original Highlands, Germantown, Schnitzelburg, Shelby Park, Smoketown, Phoenix Hill and NuLu
Between 3 and 4:30 p.m.: Central Business District (Main Street), Portland, Shawnee Golf Course, Russell, Parkland and California
Between 4:45 and 6 p.m.: Shawnee, Chickasaw, Parkland, Park DuValle, Hallmark, Algonquin, Shively and finishing at Zoeller Pump Company at around 6 pm.
Republic Bank BourbonVille
WHAT: Sip signature drinks from Kentucky Bourbon distilleries, sample bourbon-inspired cuisine and meet Master Distillers at this annual bourbon affair. For ages 21 and older.
WHEN: April 13, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Frazier History Museum, 829 W. Main St.
COST: $55 general admission (includes bourbon and food tastings, a commemorative glass and swag bag and access to Frazier Museum exhibits); $90 VIP (includes the complete event experience, VIP room, premium gift bag, and early access at 5:30 p.m.)
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Block Party Presented by Churchill Downs, Humana and Park Community Credit Union
WHAT: Returning for its second year, this event shines the spotlight on talent and resources throughout Louisville, including minority-owned businesses in west Louisville. Highlights: Cuisine from local food trucks, live entertainment, a shopping marketplace, wellness activations, vendor fair and more
WHEN: April 15, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
WHERE: Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center, 3029 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd.
The Fillies Derby Ball Presented by Total Wine & More
WHAT: This Derby Festival tradition features cocktails, dinner, dancing and the Queen’s Coronation, where the Derby Festival Queen will be chosen. Produced by the Fillies Inc.
WHEN: April 15, 6 p.m. Cocktails, 6 p.m.; dinner, 8 p.m.; dancing, 9 p.m. to midnight
WHERE: Louisville Marriott Downtown, 280 W. Jefferson St.
COST: $300 per person; $3,500 for VIP table of 10
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PNC Tour de Lou
WHAT: The Derby Festival's cycling experience is a unique way to tour the city on two wheels and celebrates its 10th ride this year. Ride through Churchill Down on the 20-Mile, 35-Mile, and Metric Century routes. Start times are based on distance: Metric Century, 8 a.m.; 35-mile ride, 8:15 a.m.; 20-mile ride, 8:30 a.m.; Family Adventure Ride, 9:30 a.m.
WHEN: April 16
WHERE: Begins at Waterfront Park, 301 E. Witherspoon St.
COST: $55 for the 20-mile ride; $65 for the 35-mile ride; $75 for the Metric Century; $10-$25 for the Family Adventure Ride; $45 for the virtual ride. (Prices increase on April 2).
They're Off! Luncheon Presented by BAE Systems, Fifth Third Bank and Heartland
WHAT: The official Kentucky Derby Festival kick-off luncheon features the host of "American Ninja Warrior" Matt Iseman as the featured speaker. The doctor-turned-comedian strives to inspire others with his motto that laughter is the best medicine when it comes to overcoming obstacles.
WHEN: April 21, 11:30 a.m.
WHERE: Grand Ballroom, Galt House Hotel, 140 S. Fourth St.
COST: $100 per person; $800 for a table of eight.
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Thunder Over Louisville
WHAT: In its 34th year, the 2023 theme is "Through the Decades" in a nod to the early years of Thunder and how much the show has grown over the decades. Presenting Sponsors: Caesars Southern Indiana, Humana, LG&E, Meijer and UPS.
WHEN: April 22. Foodfest and Thunder on the Ground start at 11 a.m.; the air show starts at 3 p.m., and fireworks blast off at 9:30 p.m.
WHERE: Waterfront Park, 129 E. River Road
COST: Admission is a 2023 Pegasus Pin. Find more information at ThunderOverLouisville.org
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Kroger's Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront
WHAT: The ultimate entertainment experience features concerts with a wide variety of musical genres including jazz, R&B, country, rock and blues; also family fun, food, kids’ inflatable playground and midway rides.
Chow Wagon: an outdoor food and live music venue, is one of the highlights of Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront
WHEN: April 27 to May 5, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., except Sunday, April 30, 12-10 p.m.
WHERE: Waterfront Park, 129 E. River Road
COST: Admission is free with a 2023 Pegasus Pin.
L&N Federal Credit Union Great Balloonfest
WHAT: Colorful hot air balloons will light up the Louisville skyline during this Derby Festival favorite that features three events
WHEN and WHERE:
Rush Hour Race: April 28, 7 a.m., Bowman Field
Kentucky Derby Festival Great Balloon Glow: April 28, 9 p.m., Kroger's Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront
Great Balloon Race: April 29, 7 a.m., Bowman Field
COST: Free admission with a 2023 Pegasus Pin
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GE Appliances Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon/Marathon
WHAT: Kentucky’s largest day of road racing celebrates a major milestone this year, as the miniMarathon marks its 50th run. Features 13.1-mile and 26.2-mile routes. In-person and virtual.
WHEN: April 29, 7 a.m.
WHERE: starts on Main Street, near Louisville Slugger Field, 401 E. Main St., and ends at Lynn Family Stadium, 350 Adam St.
COST: $95 miniMarathon; $105 Marathon; $325 Marathon Relay; $50 virtual. (Rates increase on April 1). DerbyFestivalMarathon.com.
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Zoeller Pump Company Pegasus Parade
WHAT: The Derby Festival's traditional parade will be held on a Sunday for the second year so more fans can help kick off Derby Week. The 2023 theme is "Celebrating Derby Traditions" and will highlight all that makes the Derby Festival and Derby season a memorable time of year. Featuring nearly 100 units, including inflatables, floats, marching bands and equestrians.
WHEN: April 30, 3 p.m.
WHERE: Marches west on Broadway from Campbell to 9th streets
COST: Free; $10 bleacher seats (along Broadway from Hancock to 6th streets); $35 for VIP reserved bleacher seats in TV Zone with parking pass for every four tickets purchased and complimentary drinks and snacks (along Broadway between Floyd and Preston streets).
Samtec Great Bed Races
WHAT: Beds aren’t for sleeping during Derby Week. Check out more than 30 beds on wheels as they race around a track in Broadbent Arena. The 2023 theme is “Though the Decades,” featuring inspiration from movies, music, fashion, television and sports.
WHEN: May 1. Tailgate party, 1 p.m.; parade of the beds, 6 p.m.; race begins, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Broadbent Arena, Kentucky Exposition Center, 937 Phillips Lane
COST: Free admission with a 2023 Pegasus Pin. Parking is $12.
Chicken Salad Chick WineFest
WHAT: Sip and savor more than 100 local wines from Kentucky wineries. For ages 21 and older.
WHEN: May 2, 6-9 p.m.
WHERE: Picasso and Monet Rooms, Mellwood Art Center, 1860 Mellwood Ave.
COST: General admission: $55 (includes wine tastings, light appetizers, souvenir glass and WineFest event pin); VIP: $90 (limited availability and includes early access at 5 p.m., VIP private area, food sampling, swag bag, barrel tasting of local wines and access to private restrooms.) Designated driver, $15.
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Shepherd Insurance Great Steamboat Race
WHAT: This long-running Derby Festival favorite will pit three vessels – the Belle of Louisville, the Belle of Cincinnati and the American Countess – on the Ohio River as they compete for bragging rights and the coveted Silver Antlers.
WHEN: May 3. Board at 4:30 p.m.; depart at 5:45 p.m.; race starts at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Wharf at the Waterfront
COST: Belle, $165 (limited availability). Belle of Cincinnati, $80 cruise only, $125 dinner and cruise (800-261-8586 or bbriverboats.com). Free spectator viewing at Kroger's Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront and along the banks of the Ohio River.
Reach News Clerk Gege Reed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky Derby Festival 2023: Complete calendar to Louisville events