Derby Equity & Community Initiative

The Kentucky Derby Festival launched the Derby Equity & Community Initiative in May 2021 with support from Churchill Downs and Humana, Inc. This partnership is a combined effort and aims to incorporate equitable programming into the Derby season with the intention of directing economic impact and ensuring a sense of belonging to Louisville communities that have encountered a lack of access to those opportunities and the spirit of Derby season.

The phased multi-year initiative will build upon Kentucky Derby Festival’s mission to provide creative and unique entertainment and community service for the people of Greater Louisville that directly contributes to the aesthetic, cultural, educational, charitable, and economic development of the area. The Initiative vows to support, restore, and create Derby traditions that invite diverse participation through economically impactful programs with a focus on educational elements and multi-generational programming.

Our Primary Pillars to promote equity through Derby season are: Support, Restore, and Create.

To achieve these goals, we are encouraging the community to submit applications with information on existing events or ideas for events and/or as a business or vendor to be considered for the upcoming Kentucky Derby Festival.

Please see links above for both the event application and business/vendor application. Submissions received by November 1, 2023, will be considered for support in 2024.


  • In recognizing that there are organizations that have already been working toward this shared goal, the Initiative strives to promote existing events and help create a process for sustainability and growth by way of funding, event management assistance, and/or marketing support through the Kentucky Derby Festival.
  • DECI is asking the community’s help in identifying existing Derby events or traditions that are centered in cultural diversity and broad accessibility. (Click here for the Kentucky Derby Festival New Event Application Process and Criteria.)
  • An Advisory Committee including members representing the Kentucky Derby Festival, Churchill Downs and Humana, Inc., as well as the community will also be established to help select and determine which of the submitted events will be considered to be part of the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Official Schedule of Events.


  • Throughout the listening tour, nearly unanimous feedback suggested that the West Louisville community experiences a painful “Derby divide.” This is both the result of geographical distance from most widely-recognized Derby festivities and from the loss of specific Derby traditions that have been systematically prevented. The absence of these traditions resulted in the loss of economic opportunities for West Louisville and dissolved a sense of unity and celebration related to Derby season.
  • DECI commits to working with the community to develop events and programming that is geographically intentional in an effort to restore the spirit of community unity and celebration in a way that drives economic impact to businesses in those communities.


  • Over the course of five years, DECI will work to create new and culturally celebratory experiences in an effort to truly bring Derby to everyone in our community in a way that is inclusive and equitable.
  • As part of this developmental effort, DECI commits to creating economic opportunities with under represented groups like women, people of color, veterans, people with disabilities and the LGBTQ+ community through vendor contracts.

Due to the uncertain nature of circumstances surrounding the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, the Initiative will debut many of these efforts in 2022, based on the feedback received from the community this year.

It is the shared hope of these organizations that the efforts established under the Derby Equity & Community Initiative will create a more inclusive and unified Derby experience for the entire community. We will continue to listen and participate in discussions with our community and do our part to contribute to a better, more vibrant and diverse Louisville.