LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Originally postponed until August and September, the Kentucky Derby Festival has determined many of its events, including Thunder Over Louisville, the miniMarathon and the Pegasus Parade are not able to be held in 2020. Having closely monitored the developments surrounding COVID-19, and with an abundance of caution, festival organizers have made the difficult decision not to produce their traditional large-scale events.
“As an organization that always puts public health and safety first, we know it would not be responsible for the Kentucky Derby Festival to put on events that attract crowds with not just hundreds, but hundreds of thousands of people,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival president and CEO. “This has been a difficult and emotional decision for our staff and board, but we believe it is the best one based on these unprecedented circumstances.”
Due to the pandemic, this year the not-for-profit festival also faces limited funding and resources needed to put on its more than 70 events leading up to Derby Day. More than 50% of the festival’s operating budget comes from corporate sponsorship, with the remainder of funds coming from sources such as ticket sales, Pegasus Pin sales, concessions and participant registration for events like the mini and Marathon, Tour de Lou, Bed Races, and others.
“We are so grateful for the continued support of our many sponsors, partners and our fans during this uncertain time,” said Gibson. “The Kentucky Derby Festival’s mission has always been to bring the community together in celebration. We hope to still find ways we can do that even if we’re apart.”
The festival continues to explore other options, including small-scale events, virtual events and Festival-themed promotions, in the spirit of the Derby season. Festival officials are working with sponsors and partners to explore those alternatives. Plans are being submitted for smaller events including Tour de Lou and the BalloonFest. Steps have already been taken to create virtual options for events like the miniMarathon and Marathon, as well as the Tour de Lou cycling event. More details about other opportunities to celebrate with the Festival will be released in the coming weeks.
Updated information for those who purchased tickets to Festival events or registered to participate in events will be forthcoming to those individuals. Festival fans who have already purchased a 2020 Pegasus Pin should hold on to them. 2020 Pegasus Pins will be honored next year during the 2021 Kentucky Derby Festival.
“We look forward to the time when it’s safe for everyone to come together to celebrate our favorite Kentuckiana traditions,” said 2020 KDF Chair Judy Hess. “Though we may be centered around the first weekend of May, we know the spirit of the Derby Festival is strong year-round in our community. We’re going to get through this together.”
2020 marks the 65th year for the Kentucky Derby Festival. Known for producing more than 70 events in the weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby horse race, this will be the first time in its history that the Derby Festival and its traditional schedule of events has not been held in the spring.
The Derby Festival is an independent community organization supported by 4,000 volunteers, more than 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.