LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Driving around neighborhoods that circle Churchill Downs, cars pack the lawns of hundreds of homes. It’s become a tradition, almost like Derby week itself, for those who live near the track to get their lawns and properties ready to charge people to park hundreds of cars over the weekend.
At Cliff and Longfield Avenues, Steve Haise runs Easy Exit Parking.
“It is easier to go out through the neighborhoods than to fight the traffic on Longfield Avenue and Central Avenue,” Haise said about the name.
Haise owns three properties on the corner that he bought a few years ago. He took over the parking tradition after buying the properties from the previous owners.
“There’s people that have been coming to this spot at Cliff and Longfield for decades,” he said.
He warns his tenants that Derby week is coming, but makes sure to designate parking areas for them.
After a year without neighborhoods packed with cars, Haise said parked cars throughout the neighborhood is a welcomed sight.
“We took a year off as I think everybody kinda did with COVID but being May 1 and the first Saturday in May, it’s just exciting to see it coming back,” he said.
During Derby week, Haise usually parks about 60 or 70 cars a day. He has the whole thing calculated out to how many cars he can fit if he lets the guests self-park. He also has maps for every day of the week, with each spot marked out, including which spots need to be parked first.
“We parked about 30 today,” he said Thursday afternoon. “So that’s pretty good for a first year back and a rainy day.”
While dozens of homeowners get ready to park more cars this weekend, on Queen Avenue, one group from Wisconsin said they are hoping people will stop by to share a drink with them.
“My dad’s been coming down here with his friends for 45 years and we just felt like this is something we need to do,” Andy Paar, from Wisconsin, said.
Paar told WAVE 3 News it’s a tradition to come to the Derby, park their RV’s, and host a tailgate. It’s something passed down from his dad. Paar said he’s been coming to Louisville for the Derby for 25 years.
On Thursday, Paar and his friends were setting up a bar and tent for what they call Down the Stretch Lounge. Paar said while they are inviting people to join them for a drink, they’re doing this for a good cause.
“If you want to make a donation that would be fantastic,” Paar said. “What we ultimately do is raise money for the American Cancer Society. We donate all the money we can, all the proceeds we can. Over the course of the last 15 years, as I mentioned, we’ve raised over $80 thousand dollars.”
Paar said he was bummed they weren’t able to be in Louisville last year for Derby, but he’s glad to be back and in a neighborhood that has continually welcomed them back year after year.
“To see the neighborhood revitalizing and picking back up, it’s exciting,” he said. “There’s so many people around here who are just getting amped up. I can guarantee you tomorrow and Saturday are going to be so fired up. It’s going to be great.”