LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Would the pandemic cause the Kentucky Derby Festival to cancel in-person events again this year? That question answered Tuesday afternoon.
The Kentucky Derby Festival made their announcements for the upcoming 2021 schedule in a virtual update.
While some indoor events will have to be sidelined, the show will go on for two of the festivals biggest events, but not to crowds.
“This year’s Kentucky Derby Festival will be different and nothing like we’ve experienced before the pandemic,“ KDF President and CEO Matt Gibson said.
From Thunder over Louisville to the Pegasus Parade, these events leading up to the first Saturday in May that bring the city thousands of visitors every year and $120 million dollars of economic impact.
All of it was lost in 2020.
“This past year was tough for everyone, including at the Kentucky Derby Festival,” Gibson said. “Our goal has been to be here for the community when we get through all of this and that has not changed. We know the festival and what it brings to our community is needed now more than ever.”
This year, no pandemic pause, Thunder Over Louisville with fireworks and an airshow and the Pegasus Parade will happen.
The festival’s two largest events will have both live and produced segments for television thanks to sponsors.
Thunder Over Louisville will become a tribute to Thunder that will not gather guests at the Waterfront venue, and will not be happening in its usual location. Instead, it will become a showcase for planes and fireworks that will take place on Saturday, April 17, two weeks before the first weekend in May.
Pegasus Parade will also not gather on Broadway as in previous years. While the event is still in planning stages, the parade will continue on with new ways for fans to observe the parade.
“We know we can’t bring a crowd together like that safely right now,” Gibson said during a virtual announcement with the media, “the extraordinary responsibility you have to take when bringing folks together, just isn’t possible right now especially with one of the largest mass gatherings that exists.”
With the miniMarathon, Marathon and Tour De Lou events, there will be a staggered start taking place over multiple days, featuring limited contact for social distancing.
“We are doing what has now become an industry standard by a staggered start that will be done over four days, " Gibson explained, “it limits the amount of folks who can participate every 15 minutes, 30 minutes and then on the hour.”
The routes are still be worked out and participants must carry a mask and training will still be offered, just on line as part of the virtual Norton Sports Health Training Program.
Working with the Governor’s office and Kentucky Derby Officials details on these events and many more will come in the next few weeks,
“Part of that is getting final approvals and signoffs on some of the things we are attempting,” Gibson said.
Pegasus Pins will be available this year, with new prize opportunities available. Gibson said the pin program is how the community can continue to support the KDF organization. The price for pins will remain $6 each, with a Family Fun Pack of five pins will be available for purchase as well.
Anyone who deferred tickets to 2021 for events that may not happen can be refunded.
While other events such as the Great Bed Races or the Great Steamboat Race were mentioned, no specific dates or plans were given at this time, but more would be coming following Tuesday’s announcement.
“There’s a lot in the works,” Gibson said.
More details on the upcoming events will be available on the Kentucky Derby Festival’s website as the organization continues to finalize plans for this year.