LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The countdown to the 2020 Kentucky Derby Festival is on, as new Derby Festival Royalty were crowned this morning. The five women selected to serve as Princesses in the 2020 Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court were introduced in a ceremony at Macy’s in Oxmoor Center. The Royal Court Program is coordinated by The Fillies, Inc., a volunteer group that works closely with the Festival. Fillies President Susan Moore joined KDF President and CEO Matt Gibson, as well as 2020 Derby Festival Chair Judy Hess, in crowning the newly appointed court. They are:
Giavanna (Gia) Combs of Louisville, Ky. – Combs is a 20-year-old junior at the University of Louisville majoring in psychology with a minor in Pan-African Studies. She is a Woodford R. Porter Scholar, Denny Crum Scholar, and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. She also participated in the medical companion program with the Louisville Veterans Affairs Hospital.
Hannah Maria Edelen of Springfield, Ky. – Edelen is a 21-year-old senior at Northern Kentucky University dual majoring in History and Communication Studies with a minor in Organizational Leadership and Honors. She was the 2018-2019 student body president, has served as a Henry Clay Scholar on Capitol Hill, and is currently serving as the NKU Inaugural Presidential Fellow. Hannah is a first-generation college student, member of Kappa Delta Sorority, a 2020 Teach for America Corp Member, and supports her personal initiative “Read Ready Kentucky”.
Leah Hazelwood of Lebanon, Ky. – Hazelwood is a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Louisville dual majoring in Political Science and Liberal Studies with concentrations in Race & Gender Studies, Global Public Health, and Economics. She is a McConnell Scholar, a Harvard Kennedy Public Policy Leadership Scholar, the College of Arts and Sciences vice president, a member of Chi Omega Sorority, and is a “children’s advocate” for the Center for Women and Families.
Molly Jett of Louisville, Ky. – Jett is a 21-year-old senior at Bellarmine University double majoring in Communication and Design, Art, and Technology. Before completing her journalism internship abroad in Shanghai, China, she was a public affairs intern for the Kentucky Association of Counties. Jett is also a Bellarmine University Women’s Council Scholar, member of Phi Mu Sorority, former WHAS11 News intern, and active volunteer at the Kentucky Refugee Ministries (KRM).
Hannah Robb of Louisville, Ky. – Robb is a 20-year-old junior at Bellarmine University studying Business Administration and Marketing. She is a first-generation college student and business woman. She hopes to continue her work with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Toys for Tots organization as a local volunteer coordinator.
Two alternates were also chosen – Grace Rahman of Lexington, Ky., a University of Louisville post-baccalaureate student entering med school in the fall, was chosen as first alternate. Abigail Frazier, of Whitesburg, Ky., a senior at the University of Kentucky, was chosen as the second alternate. They will become Princesses if one of the other women is unable to serve.
These five young ladies will act as ambassadors for the 2020 Kentucky Derby Festival, attending nearly 70 events over a two-week period. They were selected Saturday, Jan. 4, after attending final judging with 30 other finalist candidates. There were nearly 100 original applicants for the Royal Court Program, representing different colleges and universities from around Kentucky and the region. All the applicants went through preliminary judging in November.
One of the five will be crowned the Derby Festival Queen by a spin-of-the-wheel at the annual Fillies Derby Ball on April 4 at The Galt House. Each woman will receive a $2000 scholarship ($1000 from the Fillies and $1000 from the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation).
Candidates for the Princess Program must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average and are selected by a panel of three out-of-state judges. Criteria for selection includes knowledge of the Derby Festival, poise, intelligence, personality and campus and community involvement. The first Derby Festival Princess was crowned in 1957, the second year of the Festival. Previous Princesses have included former Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins and the late Gail Gorski, the first female pilot ever hired by United Airlines.
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. It entertains more than 1.5 million people in a two-week period and has a local economic impact of more than $127 million. This involvement has made the festival the largest single attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.