January 26, 2021. Louisville, KY. – Plans are underway for the 2021 Kentucky Derby Festival. With public health and safety a top priority, the Festival’s traditional schedule of events leading up to Derby Day will look different this year. After months of planning and exploring all options, the Festival has created a mix of both virtual and in-person (socially distanced) events and promotions for the community.
“Although 2021 will be different, fans will still see and feel the tradition of the Derby Festival in the spring,” said Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO. “There will be fireworks, hot air balloons, bed racing, steamboats, and more for the community to look forward to this year.”
Any in-person and socially distanced events being planned for 2021 will comply with COVID-19 guidelines. Event plans are being submitted for approval at state and local levels. Some 2021 events are open for registration, including the virtual Norton Sports Health Training Program, as well as the Humana miniMarathon and Marathon and PNC Tour de Lou with both virtual and in-person (socially distanced) options for participants.
The Derby Festival will produce a tribute to Thunder Over Louisville, centered around its traditional date of Saturday, April 17th. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 Thunder tribute will be held without spectators and will not be held at the waterfront. The overall Thunder show has been reimagined for this year.
Said Gibson, “This year’s Thunder Over Louisville will be like no other. While we can’t gather at the waterfront, we’re still planning to have elements of the air show and fireworks. We’re working with our sponsors, partners and local media outlets to help share this unique Thunder tribute with the community.”
The Pegasus Parade will also be different, as it will not include the traditional march down Broadway. The Parade committee is taking a new approach with a tribute to the parade that will bring the event to the community. More details will be released in the coming weeks as plans are finalized.
Pegasus Pins will return in 2021 with some new elements and cash prizes, which will be rolled out in March.
“Beyond just being a collectible, Pegasus Pins are a major source of funding for the Derby Festival,” said Gibson. “Purchasing a Pegasus Pin is a way the community can continue to support the Festival and we need that support now, more than ever.”
Events that the Festival has typically held indoors for luncheons or tastings, or that gathered crowds outdoors for events such as concerts will not be able to take place in 2021 due to the pandemic and the financial challenges of producing events at limited capacities.
“We’re really doing everything we can to bring our events and the Festival spirit to the community this year,” said Gibson. “We are so grateful for the patience and continued support from our many sponsors, partners, and our Festival family during these extraordinary times.’
The Festival implemented a “Pandemic Pause” in 2020, keeping Board Officers, event committees and the Royal Court in place. They will continue their service in 2021 to help offer some continuity for the Festival for the upcoming season.
2021 marks the 66th year for the Kentucky Derby Festival. The 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.