Popular Derby Festival Events

 What are the Best Kentucky Derby Festival Events?

Looking for something to do in Louisville during the Kentucky Derby? Below is a list of the most popular Kentucky Derby Festivals for 2023. Best of all, the majority of them take place within a very close distance of Downtown Louisville.

This time of year is clearly the most exciting time for Louisville, let alone the state of Kentucky! If you are not familiar with the tradition - the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby is jam-packed with a ton of events for everyone to enjoy.

1.) Thunder Over Louisville

Thunder Over Louisville kicks off the Kentucky Derby Festival excitement. If attending for the first time, try and get there early so you can enjoy the air show. The air show runs throughout the day and leads up to the nation’s largest firework show. The air show is also considered one of the top five air shows in the country. If you’re a fan of pyrotechnics this is the place to be, you can expect more than 500,000 people attending this Kentucky Derby Festival. Thunder Over Louisville is an annual event that started in 1990 and ever since 1991, it has been on the waterfront of Downtown Louisville.

2.) Pegasus Parade

Over the years you can expect to see celebrities featured as the Grand Marshal of the Kentucky Derby Festival Pegasus Parade. Some of the celebrities that have been featured in the parade have been the late Muhammad Ali, Diane Sawyer, Colonel Harland Sanders, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, and more. The 2023 Zoeller Pump Company Pegasus Parade theme is “Celebrating Derby Traditions”.

Did You Know:  The original budget for the Parade was only $640!!

3.) Great Steamboat Race

An annual event that is typically held the Wednesday before the first of May. The Great Steamboat Race takes place on the Ohio River every year, starting back in 1963. The race between the Belle of Louisville and just recently the Delta Queen has retired and now in place is the Belle of Cincinnati to join in the competition. The race of the two steamboats stretches from Downtown Louisville down to Jeffersonville Indiana, back to the 2nd Street Bridge in Louisville at an average speed of 7 miles an hour. In 2022 the Belle of Louisville took the win, lets see who will get the bragging right in 2023.

Kentucky Derby Balloon Glow

4.) The Great Balloon Fest

Leading up to the Great Balloon Race is the Balloon Glow. Of course, this event depends on the weather but it is always a fun time for the kids to see all of the balloons joined together and all lit up at Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront

If you want to catch the Great Balloon Race, you better set your alarm clock! The race kicks off at 7:00 am. With a cluster of hot air balloons taking off from Bowman Field, held the Saturday before the Kentucky Derby. 

5.) Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon

The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon is a Boston Marathon qualifier. The race has participants from all over the nation and other countries as well. A marathon that ranks in the top 100 by USA Track and Field. Two separate races take place but they share the same start and finish line. You can always expect a big crowd to show up to cheer on the 10,000 plus participants.

Kentucky Derby Festivals

6.) Krogers Fest-a-ville

Taking place in Downtown Louisville on the great lawn at the Waterfront is a two-week long event. Taking place the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Kroger Fest-a-ville is packed with entertainment with concerts from local artists to national acts, great food, inflatables, midway rides, and plenty of family-fun.

7.) Chow Wagon

The Chow Wagon is an outdoor gathering with great food and live entertainment and music made available with a Pegasus Pin. Come out and enjoy great food and games down on the waterfront. A week long event that is open daily from 11am-11pm, come for lunch or make the trip in the evening.

Other Festival Events:

  • A
  • Academic Challenge
  • B
  • BalloonFest
  • BalloonFest: Crew Challenge
  • BalloonFest: Glimmer
  • BalloonFest: Glow
  • BalloonFest: Race
  • BalloonFest: Rush-Hour Race
  • Basketball Classic
  • Battle of the Bounce
  • Bed Races
  • BeerFest
  • Blues Traveler: Saturday Concert
  • C
  • Celebrity Day at the Downs
  • Children's Tea
  • Chow Wagon
  • Cinco de Mayo Fiesta
  • Craze: Derby Eve Concert
  • D
  • Da'Ville Classic
  • Derbyhole Classic
  • Don Fightmaster Golf Outing
  • F
  • Fashion Show
  • Fest-a-Ville
  • Festival Unveiled
  • Fillies Derby Ball
  • G
  • Da'Ville Classic
  • Derbyhole Classic
  • Don Fightmaster Golf Outing
  • F
  • Fashion Show
  • Fest-a-Ville
  • Festival Unveiled
  • Fillies Derby Ball
  • G
  • Genevieve with The Deloreans: Wednesday Concert
  • Give A Day
  • GospelFest
  • H
  • HappyTail Hour
  • Health Fair
  • Hole-in-One Golf Contest
  • K
  • Knights of Columbus Charity Dinner
  • L
  • Louisville Youth Orchestra Concert
  • M
  • Marathon & miniMarathon
  • Mayor's Derby Brunch on the River
  • miniFun Run
  • Morning Line
  • N
  • Night At Vincenzo's
  • Night of the Future Stars
  • NPC Derby Championships
  • O
  • Ohio Valley Wrestling Run For The Ropes
  • P
  • Pegasus Parade
  • Pegasus Parade Preview Party
  • Pegasus Pin Party
  • Pro-Am Golf Tournament
  • R
  • O
  • Ohio Valley Wrestling Run For The Ropes
  • P
  • Pegasus Parade
  • Pegasus Parade Preview Party
  • Pegasus Pin Party
  • Pro-Am Golf Tournament
  • R
  • Race Expo And Packet Pick-Up
  • Rose Royce & Midnight Star: Tuesday Concert
  • S
  • Spelling Bee
  • Steamboat Race
  • Student Art Contest
  • T
  • Taste of Derby Festival
  • Texas Ho Ho Hold'Em Tournament
  • Texas Hold'Em Tournament
  • TheSlice: Spice, Style & Soul
  • They're Off! Luncheon
  • Thompson Square with A Thousand Horses: Friday Concert
  • Thunder on the Ground
  • Thunder Over Louisville
  • Tour de Lou
  • Training Program
  • U
  • Unspoken with Jonny Diaz & JJ Weeks Band: Celebration Sunday Concert
  • V
  • Vance Joy with MisterWives: Thursday Concert
  • Volleyball Classic
  • W
  • WineFest
  • WineFest: Farm To Table Dinner
  • Y
  • Yard Sale
  • Z
  • Zumba Fitness Party
Posted by Nathan Garrett on
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