Don't Miss These Kentucky Derby Events!

It’s exactly one month until the Kentucky Derby so start getting acquainted with the festival event schedule. This month is a great time to be a tourist in your own city or bring your guests to town to show them what Louisville is all about! You can feel the energy and excitement in the air leading up to the first Saturday in May and we wanted to showcase some of our favorite Derby-time events!

Taste of Derby Festival

Tuesday, April 9 | Slugger Field | 5:30 PM – 8 PM

What’s better than sampling some of Louisville’s best dishes and helping a worthy cause? Not much. Perhaps that’s why each year the turnout increases for the Derby Festival “Taste of Derby Festival,” which will be held this year on Tuesday, April 9. All proceeds from the event benefit the Dare to Care Food Bank.

This is the 18th year for the Taste of Derby Festival event, which features signature dishes from more than 65 of Louisville’s finest restaurants and beverage companies. There is also a bourbon tasting, wine tasting, and a silent auction.

The Taste of Derby Festival has the feel of an upscale cocktail party, but it’s open to the public – as long as tickets are still available. The participating restaurants will offer a selection of signature appetizers, entrees and dessert items. Some of the liquor vendors will feature small-batch brands not commonly available. A Silent Auction returns to the event offering unique items from generous donors.

All proceeds benefit the Dare to Care Food Bank.

Tickets are $85 ($50 is tax deductible). Start planning NOW to attend this spectacular event at Louisville Slugger Field. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

Taste of Derby Festival via

Taste of Derby Festival via

They're Off!® Luncheon

Friday, April 12 | 11:30 AM

The official corporate kick-off of the 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival – the 63rd annual They’re Off! Luncheon will be held on Friday, April 12, 2019. 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!

Thunder Over Louisville

Saturday, April 13

The official kickoff of the Kentucky Derby – and one of the key components of the greater Kentucky Derby Festival – Thunder Over Louisville lights up the sky with a phenomenal airshow and fireworks display set along the Ohio River. As the largest annual fireworks display in North America, this popular family-friendly outing promises to be a guaranteed blast for all who attend.

This year, Thunder Over Louisville is taking us all on a throwback journey through our favorite childhood fairytale and animated movie classics.

"The Wonderful World of Thunder" is the theme for the 2019 air and firework show that is the official kickoff event for the weekslong festival.

Checkout Helpful Hints on what to bring, leave at home and tips for Thunder!

Thunder Over Louisville

Great BalloonFest

Great Balloon Glimmer | Thursday, April 25, 2019 | 8:30 PM

The annual BB&T Great Balloon Glimmer will be held on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville on the Waterfront.  The Glimmer is just one of four balloon events being held during the Great BalloonFest from April 25 – April 27.

The Glimmer is a “mini-glow,” which kicks-off a weekend full of ballooning events. Balloons will light up on the Great Lawn of Waterfront Park for opening night of Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville and the Chow Wagon, on Thursday, April 25.  Patrons are invited to come down to the Waterfront to enjoy the Glimmer.

Admission is free with your 2019 Pegasus Pin®!

Great Balloon Glow | Friday, April 26, 2019 | 6:00 PM: Gates Open | 9:00 PM: Glow Begins

One of the most anticipated events of balloon race weekend is the BB&T Kentucky Derby Festival Great Balloon Glow on Friday, April 26 at the Kentucky Exposition Center. This spectacular event truly rivals the race in popularity with more than 50,000 fans in attendance annually!

The Great Balloon Glow is a companion event to the race, the balloons on the field, but do not ascend. As the pilots fire their burners, watch as the balloons glow against the blackness of the night sky, synchronized to a special musical score.

You are invited to walk around the field and talk to the pilots as they have more time to show off their balloons than on race morning. KDF President Mike Berry says, “Even if you plan on coming to the race, you don’t want to miss the unique beauty of the glow. It’s a one-of-a kind experience!”

Admission is free with your 2019 Pegasus Pin®! $10 KEC Parking Fee.

Great Balloon Race | Saturday, April 27, 2019 | 7:00 AM: Launch

The BB&T Kentucky Derby Festival Great Balloon Race is one of Louisville’s beloved family traditions.  In 2019, the Derby Festival will again feature Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning races. The multi-race docket gives spectators young and old more chances to take in the exhilarating view of boundless colors and shapes.

The Great Balloon Race is a Hare & Hound Race. This type of race is when all the balloons launch from the same site (Bowman Field). One balloon takes off first and is the Hare balloon. The other balloons are called the Hounds, and they will launch at a predetermined time after the Hare (usually 5 to 10 minutes after). The Hare lands at a suitable site and lays out a large fabric X, usually about 50 feet in diameter. The Hound balloons attempt to drop their markers as close to the center of the X as possible. The closest marker achieves the highest score.

Great Ballon Race

KDF Marathon and Mini-Marathon

April 27th

The Humana Kentucky Derby Festival mini & Marathon has grown from a small local road race into the largest day of road racing in Kentucky history. Runners from all 50 states and several foreign countries annually complete the scenic 13.1- and 26.2-mile courses that start and finish in downtown Louisville. Now in its 46th year, the miniMarathon attracts more than 12,000 entrants each year and is ranked among the nation’s top 100 races by USA Track and Field. The Marathon, which debuted in 2002, draws nearly 3,000 entrants.

Chow Wagon®

Thursday, April 25, 2019 – Friday, May 3, 2019 | 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM: Daily | 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM: Sunday

In 2019, the Chow Wagon will return to Waterfront Park on the Ohio River. The Miller Lite Music Stage will feature live concerts with local and regional entertainment and a wide variety of musical genres including jazz, R&B, country, rock and blues.

Where else can you find great food and live musical entertainment in a riverside setting for a 2019 Pegasus Pin admission? Meet your coworkers for lunch or come down for an evening concert. There’s no way to go wrong by making a visit to this great outdoor party.



Kentucky Proud WineFest

Tuesday, April 30, 2019 – 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Wednesday, May 1, 2019 – 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Did you know that there are over 66 wineries located here in Kentucky and nearly 30 in Indiana? The Kentucky Derby Festival WineFest event is your chance to learn more about them, and sample some great wines at a comfortable venue.

WineFest will be held on the Belvedere at Waterfront Park. Tickets, which cost $45, include a complimentary wine glass, event pin and samplings of some of Kentucky’s finest beverages. 

Designated Driver tickets will also be available to purchase at the door for $10 each. Ticket includes access to the venue and a 2019 event pin.

Great Steamboat Race

Wednesday, May 1, 2019 – 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM: Boarding | 5:45 PM: Departure | 6:00 PM: Race Begins

If you're not riding on one of the boats for the race, here are a few options to watch from the waterfront!

Waterfront – We suggest the Big Four Lawn or Cox’s Park as fun, free viewing areas.

Stroll the Big Four Bridge   –   The Big Four Bridge is a great place to get a birds eye view of the action. It’s near the races start and finish line, so you’ll have time to grab some grub in Southern Indiana in the down time. Be sure to wear walking shoes, the span of the bridge is close to a mile from start to finish.

KDF BeerFest – Returning to Kroger’s Fest-A-Ville at Waterfront Park, BeerFest lets you enjoy the race while sampling both regional and national craft beers. Tickets for the event are $45 each and include tastings, a souvenir sampling glass and a BeerFest pin. BeerFest will be open from 6 PM to 9 PM on race day.




Wednesday, May 1, 2019 | 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Returning to the 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival event schedule is BeerFest Presented by Liberty Financial. Come out to the Overlook inside Kroger’s Fest-A-Ville and enjoy samplings of both regional and national craft beers. Tickets for the event are $50 each and include tastings, a souvenir sampling glass and a BeerFest pin. BeerFest will be open from 6 PM to 9 PM on Wednesday, May 1. Tickets will be $60 at the door until event sells out.

Tickets available by calling (502) 584-FEST or online at (21 and over only. Must present ID upon entry.)

These are just a FEW of the events we love here at Essential Details! For the complete lineup of the Kentucky Derby Festival, check out the link below!

Enjoy, and Happy Derby Season!

All info from this blog is from unless noted.