Kentucky Derby Festival names new president and CEO

Matt Gibson

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Matt Gibson, who’s led the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Events and Operations since 2003, will be the organization’s next president and CEO. Gibson was selected after an extensive nationwide search.

“This truly is a lifelong dream. My job at the Kentucky Derby Festival has always been a labor of love, and I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Gibson. “We already have the best team in town. I look forward to continue working alongside them and leading them, as we take the Festival to new heights.”

Gibson will be responsible for the overall operation and financial direction of the non-profit corporation. He’ll also oversee the work of the Festival’s 22-person staff and nearly 4,000 volunteers who put on the annual civic celebration and its more than 70 events each spring. 2020 marks the 65th year the Festival will be held in Louisville.

“Matt has been building our events from the bottom up for two decades. He knows the Festival inside and out,” said Judy Hess, 2020 Derby Festival Chair. “We’re confident his leadership will continue the growth of the organization and the tradition that’s brought our community together for more than 60 years.”

Gibson assumes the position held by current President & CEO Mike Berry, who will retire in October after 33 years.

“I know I’m leaving the Festival in good hands,” said Mike Berry, KDF president & CEO. “Matt was my first hire after being named President in 1997. His passion for the Festival and the community will serve him well in this new role.”

Gibson will be officially introduced as KDF president and CEO on Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. at the festival’s headquarters.

Gibson has been with the festival for 22 years. He first joined the staff as an event manager in 1997 and quickly moved up the ranks to director of Operations in 1999, and then vice president of Events in 2003. He’s currently serving on the Senior Leadership Team as the senior vice president of Events. Before joining the Festival, Gibson spent time as a firefighter for the Jeffersontown Fire Department. Gibson is a member of the National Sports Safety and Security Committee (NCS4), a 2018 Leadership Louisville graduate, a Certified Festival Executive, recipient of the Carnegie Hero Award, University of Louisville alum, and a proud Louisville native.

Since 1956, the Derby Festival has worked to bring the community together in celebration. The Festival is an independent community organization supported by 4,000 volunteers, 400 businesses and civic groups, Pegasus Pin sponsorships and event participation. This involvement has made the Festival the largest single attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.

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