April 9, 2021. Louisville, KY. – With the traditional spin of a wheel Giavanna (Gia) Combs of Louisville, KY, was named the 2021 Kentucky Derby Festival Queen tonight at a special Coronation Ceremony at The Galt House Hotel. Gia, 21-years-old, is a senior at the University of Louisville majoring in Psychology with a minor in Pan-African Studies. She is the Vice President of the Caring of New Students Experiencing College Transition (CONECT) Peer Mentoring Program, a Woodford R. Porter Scholar, and a Denny Crum Scholar. She is a member and the Secretary of the Beta Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Gia also participated in the medical companion program with the Louisville VA Medical Center, and worked with Global Game Changers Student Empowerment Program. While working 2 jobs, Gia has successfully maintained a 4.0 GPA for her senior year.
This year’s Derby Festival Princesses anxiously awaited the traditional spin-of-the-wheel, performed by Fillies President Susan Moore. The other members of the court include: Hannah Maria Edelen of Springfield, KY, an Honors graduate of Northern Kentucky University and currently a graduate student at UK working on her Masters in Education and Policy; Leah Hazelwood of Lebanon, KY, a junior at the University of Louisville dual majoring in Political Science and Liberal Studies with concentrations in Race & Gender Studies, Global Public Health, and Economics; Molly Jett of Louisville, KY— a graduate of Bellarmine University and currently an on-air reporter for WMAZ; and Hannah Robb of Louisville, KY – a senior at Bellarmine University studying Business Administration and Marketing.
Chosen each year as ambassadors for the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Royal Court is made up of outstanding young women from around the state. This year’s court has had an historic reign since being named in 2020. Selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants, they have continued to represent the Festival in many ways and through extraordinary times.
Their reign continues through 2021, as they make multiple appearances both virtually and in-person at Festival and charity events. They’ll help share the Derby Festival spirit, as well as the importance of academics, volunteerism and community involvement.
The Princesses act as ambassadors for the Derby Festival and the city as they represent the community at a variety of functions. The Fillies, Inc. was established to support the Kentucky Derby Festival. Their mission is to organize the traditional Fillies Derby Ball as a fundraiser for the Derby Festival’s Foundation, coordinate the “Royal Court Program,” produce the “Children’s Tea” event, and publish the Official Derby Festival Program.
Past Derby Festival Queens include Martha Layne Collins – Kentucky’s first woman Governor, the late Gail Gorski – the first female pilot for United Airlines and a number of other community leaders. Many say their Derby Festival experience helped them prepare for their future careers.
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.