They're Off!® Luncheon



The Kentucky Derby Festival is working to reschedule events. Please know, the Festival’s schedule may look a little different as we move things into this new timeframe. Our goal is to have Thunder Over Louisville, the miniMarathon, the Pegasus Parade, Fest-a-Ville and the Chow Wagon, and many other events in between.

We are contacting all those involved with any rescheduled events to alert them of the changes, including ticket holders for the They’re Off! Luncheon. The new date for this event is Wednesday, August 12th. We would be happy to issue a refund for your ticket at this time, should you not be able to attend the new date.



The official corporate kick-off of the 2020 Kentucky Derby Festival – the 64th annual They’re Off! Luncheon will now be held on Wednesday August 12, 2020. More than 1,500 Derby Festival supporters and patrons are expected to be in attendance for this community tradition, which will be held in the Grand Ballroom of the Galt House East, site of the festive event since 1974. Notable speakers include Jay Bilas, Kirk Herbstreit, Erin Andrews, Sam Champion, Robin Roberts and Terry Bradshaw as well as many others in a long list of luminaries who have entertained They’re Off! Luncheon audiences for the past 61 years.


We’re excited to welcome ABC News’ Chief Meteorologist, Ginger Zee, as the featured speaker this year!

You can see Zee when she covers the nation’s weather headlines on Good Morning America, and on other ABC News broadcasts and digital news.


For the past fifteen years, Ginger Zee has covered nearly every major weather event – from Hurricane Katrina to Hurricane Sandy; from the Colorado floods and wildfires to the aftermath of tornadoes all over the nation; and from blizzards in Boston to record breaking heat in Death Valley. She also hosts an ABC News original digital series, Food Forecast, focused on climate and its impact on agriculture.


A storm-chaser since college, Zee has a genuine passion for the atmosphere and is dedicated to getting young people interested in science. She lends her voice to the character Dr. Zephyr Skye, the storm-chasing alien of Disney Junior’s hit show Miles from Tomorrowland. Zee and her husband also star in Renovation Realties: Ben and Ginger on DIY Network.


Outside of her work on television, Zee published her New York Times best-selling memoir: Natural Disaster: I Cover Them, I am One. Her memoir details her journey of being a depressed meteorologist starting her career to the first female chief network meteorologist at a major network. After graduating from Valparaiso, she worked her way up through various news outlets in the Midwest, but, in her words, Zee says she was avoiding the real storm brewing at home. Zee hopes to spread a message of resilience and self-care with her own personal story.


An Emmy Award-winning meteorologist, Zee attended Valparaiso University and holds a Bachelor of

Science degree in meteorology. She also holds the Certified Broadcast Meteorologist seal from the American Meteorological Society. She resides in New York City with her husband and son.

Though the annual kick-off luncheon started in 1957, the tradition of a keynote address was not added until 1974.

1974 – Howard Cosell
1975 – Ambassador John Sherman Coope, A. B. Happy Chandler, Colonel Harland Sanders, Coach Adolph Rupp
1976 – George Plimpton
1977 – Heywood Hale Broun
1978 – Bruce Jenner
1979 – Ben L. Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Maxie L. Anderson
1980 – George Blanda
1981 – Al McGuire
1982 – George Steinbrenner
1983 – Jack Whitaker
1984 – Howard Schnellenberger
1985 – Hank Aaron
1986 – Billy Packer
1987 – Phil Simms
1988 – Joe Jacoby
1989 – Cawood Ledford
1990 – Bettina Gregory
1991 – Bob Costas
1992 – Rick Pitino
1993 – Mike Ditka
1994 – Denny Crum
1995 – D. Wayne Lukas
1996 – Larry King
1997 – Rosie Grier
1998 – Greg Gumbel
1999 – Dan Jansen
2000 – Earvin “Magic” Johnson
2001 – James Earl Jones
2002 – Lily Tomlin
2003 – Dick Vitale
2004 – Bill Walton
2005 – Lesley Stahl
2006 – Terry Bradshaw
2007 – Boomer Esiason
2008 – Deborah Norville
2009 – Robin Roberts
2010 – “Dr. J” Julius Erving
2011 – Sam Champion
2012 – Erin Andrews
2013 – Archie Manning
2014 – Kirk Herbstreit
2015 – Jay Bilas
2016 – Kenny Mayne
2017 – Seth Davis

2018 – Mike Tirico

2019 – Hannah Storm

The Silver Horseshoe Award is presented to an individual or company that has demonstrated outstanding service or contributions to the community.

1962 – Tom “Cactus” Brooks
1963 – not given
1964 – not given
1965 – Roscoe Goose
1966 – Wathen R. Knebelkamp
1967 – Henry Forrest
1968 – Allan W. (Doc) Lavin
1969 – Colonel Anna F. Goldman
1970 – Lynn Stone
1971 – Warner L. Jones, Jr.
1972 – William F. Lucas
1973 – John W. Galbreath
1974 – Penny Chenery Tweedy
1975 – Thruston B. Morton
1976 – C.V. Whitney
1977 – William H. May
1978 – Colonel Matt J. Winn (posthumously)
1979 – Cawood Ledford
1980 – Mrs. Gene Markey
1981 Ed McGrath
1982 John R. Gaines (introduced the idea of the Breeders’ Cup in his acceptance speech – 1st event would be in 1984)
1983 – Woody Stephens
1984 – Don Brumfield
1985 – Pat Day
1986 – C.R. (Shug) McGaughey
1987 – Jim McKay
1988 – Eddie Arcaro
1989 – Warner L. Jones, Jr.
1990 – James Graham Brown (posthumously)
1991 – Arthur Hancock
1992 – Thomas H. Meeker
1993 – James E. Bassett, III
1994 – not given
1995 – W. T. Young
1996 – Louis J. Hermann, Jr.
1997 – Mike Battaglia
1998 – N/A*
1999 – Tori Murden
2000 – Kentucky Air National Guard 123rd Airlift Wing
2001 – The Kroger Company
2002 – Mayor David Armstrong
2003 – WHAS Crusade for Children
2004 – George Zambelli Sr. (posthumously)
2005 – 1956 Kentucky Derby Festival Founding Sponsors
2006 – Americana Community Center
2007 – New Bolton Center in memory of Barbaro
2008 – Delta Queen Steamboat
2009 – Thoroughbred Charities of America in memory of Eight Belles.
2010 – Kentucky Derby Museum
2011 – Louisville Metro Police Department
2012 – The American Red Cross / Louisville Chapter
2013 – James Graham Brown Cancer Center
2014 – Dare To Care
2015 – Jim King / Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
2016 – West Louisville Performing Arts Academy
2017 – Muhammad Ali Center
2019 – John Asher

*In 1998, the KDF took a year off in awarding the Silver Horseshoe award so that new criteria for selection could be determined for the award.