The Kentucky Derby, also known as “The Run for the Roses,” is more than just a horse race. It is a two-week-long festival that celebrates the rich traditions and culture of Louisville, Kentucky. The weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby are filled with various social events, parties, and celebrations. Here’s a rundown of some of the notable events that typically take place in the week or two prior to the Kentucky Derby:

  1. Thunder Over Louisville: This is the largest annual fireworks show in North America, held about two weeks before the Kentucky Derby. It marks the official beginning of the Kentucky Derby Festival and features an air show, musical performances, and a breathtaking fireworks display over the Ohio River.
  2. Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon/miniMarathon: One of the oldest races in the U.S., the KDF Marathon and miniMarathon are held on the Saturday prior to the Derby, drawing thousands of runners from across the country.
  3. Pegasus Parade: Up until 2020, this annual parade took place on the Thursday before the Kentucky Derby. Starting in 2021, the parade was moved to the Sunday before the Derby. It features colorful floats, marching bands, equestrian units, and celebrity guests. The parade marches down Broadway in downtown Louisville and is a family-friendly event.
  4. Great Balloon Race: This hot air balloon race is a part of the Kentucky Derby Festival and typically occurs a week before the Kentucky Derby. The event includes several balloon-related activities like the Balloon Glow and the Great Balloon Rush-Hour Race.
  5. The Taste of Derby Festival: A culinary event that showcases the cuisine of local Louisville restaurants and chefs, offering guests the opportunity to sample signature dishes while enjoying live entertainment and participating in a silent auction.
  6. Kentucky Derby Festival WineFest: This event takes place during the week leading up to the Kentucky Derby and features local, national, and international wines, along with food and live music.
  7. Steamboat Race: Held on the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby, the Great Steamboat Race is a tradition dating back to 1963, where the Belle of Louisville competes against another steamboat, often the Belle of Cincinnati, on the Ohio River.
  8. Derby Eve Parties: On the night before the Kentucky Derby, various parties take place throughout Louisville, with the most prestigious one being the Barnstable Brown Gala. This celebrity-filled event raises funds for diabetes research and features live music, dinner, and dancing.

These are just a few of the many social events that lead up to the Kentucky Derby. The two weeks preceding the race are filled with excitement and anticipation, as people from all over the world come together to celebrate this iconic sporting event.