LTN’s 10 Favorite Things About Derby (And None of Them Are the Derby)

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It’s Derby time in Louisville – our biggest cultural event of the year. We’re not necessarily huge horse racing fans here at LTN but you can’t live in Louisville without enjoying Derby. It’s a special season in our city. Here are our Top 10 Favorite Things About Derby!


1. Thunder Over Louisville

Kiana: Who doesn’t love fireworks?!?! The entire firework show feels like the finale of other ordinary firework shows and the finale will always blow your mind, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

Jesse: It’s insane. It’s like every little boy’s greatest dream. “What? We’re going to shoot off the largest fireworks in the world for 30 minutes? Where’s my lighter?!”

2. Derby Parties

Kiana: Derby Parties are a great excuse to hang-out with friends! My first Derby Party I went to, the names of all the horses were written on little pieces of paper and put into a hat. Everyone put $1 into a pot and grabbed one piece of paper. If the name of the horse you pulled won you got all the money and I won!

Jesse: I think I won $5 one time 10 years ago at a party like that. The general rule is to select a horse with the name you like the most. You spend more time watching the horses walk out to the track than watching the actual race itself. But it’s a lot of fun with people starting their own Derby traditions. Bring chips and dip and enjoy laughing with good friends.

3. The Pegasus Parade

Kiana: The Derby Parade totally messes up the traffic in Louisville BUT it is completely worth it. Parades make me feel like Louisville is a small town and brings back fond memories of childhood. Parades are always a plus in my book!

Jesse: It’s a pretty fun experience. Drum lines, massive balloons, cotton candy, grown men driving little tiny cars… What’s not to love?

4. The Balloon Glow & Race

Kiana: I personally feel like hot air balloons have a very magical feeling about them. They are giant balloons floating in the air AND you can ride in them! How great is that!?!?

Jesse: It’s a pretty amazing thing to look up in the sky and see a sea of hot air balloons making their way across the city. Magical is a fitting word.

5. The Great Steamboat Race

Jesse: For those that don’t know, basically a really big boat from OH comes to race our beloved steamboat, the Belle of Louisville. Everyone lines up along the Ohio River for miles to watch the boats. When the weather is right, it’s a pretty fantastic excuse to grill out along the banks and let time move a bit slower for a few hours. Occasionally, the boats try to cheat by turning early or using a diesel engine which ads to the (very slow) adrenaline rush!

6. The Kentucky Derby Marathon and Mini-Marathon

Kiana: I have only run the Mini-Marathon once but getting to see all the camaraderie and community surrounding the event was invigorating and will keep you going even when you think your knee cap might fall off. I even got to run with a group of Roman soldiers for a little bit!

Jesse: My father-in-law started running this race when there were less than 150 runners. This year, they had about 19,000 people run. It’s a great race that goes through Churchill Downs and through some of our best parks. Also, it’s very flat so many runners will get a Personal Record and try to qualify for Boston here. I’ve run 5 or 6 times and love it every year.

7. Oaks Day

Jesse: Oaks is the day before Derby. No one works on Oaks. It’s a holiday for the whole city, essentially. “I get the day off? What am I celebrating? Horses? Yeah. Sure. Okay. I get the day off, right? I love horses!” But honestly, we do love the Oaks.

8. The Derby Hats

Kiana: People watching is one of my favorite things to do and Derby is the best time to do that! It is fun to see who can find the craziest hat.

Jesse: Some can become so gaudy that they become amazing. Those are my favorites.

9. Celebrity Sightings & Parties

Kiana: Again, BEST opportunity for people watching. A friend of mine spotted Lady Gaga in downtown Louisville!

Jesse: A have a friend who snuck into a very ritzy party a few years ago. Oprah was there. Maybe he’s an Oprah fan. However, in the 5 minutes he was there, he managed to meet Janet Jackson. It was just after her wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. Kinda awkward.

10. G.O. Ministries at Churchill Downs

Jesse: Every year, G.O. Ministries sells the official Derby Merchandise at Churchill Downs. Volunteers fly in from around the world to help G.O. with their biggest fundraising event of the year. People buy merchandise. G.O. receives money. G.O. brings aid to third-world countries to shape lives both physically and spiritually.


(Derby photo by Kramer Caswell.) [starbox id=jesse]

Comments 1

  1. I love when they sing My Old Ky Home right before the start of the race. When we were small no matter what we were doing, we would all stop and listen to them sing that song…and we also did the horses names in a hat sometimes. Lived here all my life and have never been to the derby. But where I worked we were always treated to Dawn at the Downs right before Derby. It was great!

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