A first-ever reunion of past Kentucky Derby Festival Official Artists last night attracted a crowd of more than 1,000 patrons to the Cascade Ballroom of the Kentucky International Convention Center for the Derby Festival Poster Premiere. Sonny Whittle – who also created the Festival’s Official Poster in 1985 and 1990 – unveiled his KDF 50th Celebration Poster as 2005 Official Merchandise sales were kicked off with brisk business.
“It’s the best one yet,” Whittle said of his 2005 poster design which depicts a futuristic Pegasus image against the city skyline. “It’s a bit more modern. I hope the young people appreciate it. I just turned 70; I thought it was time to be edgy.”
Eleven Official Poster Artists, representing 16 different years of the poster, were in attendance at last night’s event, which celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Official Poster Series. Louisville native Page Penna, the 1989 Poster Artist, made the longest journey to the reunion, traveling from her home in Naples, Fla.
Seventeen area frame shops took part in a Silent Auction featuring their best example of framing options for the 2005 poster. Bluegrass Frames won the Judge’s Award in the competition and Art Emporium received the People’s Choice Award, which was voted on by event attendees. The posters are available at more than 15 local framers, the Kentucky Derby Museum and online at in the “Festival Shop” at ://www.kdf.org
The first official event of the 2005 Kentucky Derby Festival was sponsored by Midwest Insurance Alliance. Contributing sponsors were Oldies 103 WRKA, Greater Louisville Inc., Centerplate and Cardinal Printing/Redleaf Digital. The Poster Premiere was part of Greater Louisville Inc.’s Business Scene.
Over the years, the Festival's Official Poster Series has become a unique symbol of this community. Past designs decorate offices and homes throughout the region. Peter Max's expressionistic "Bluegrass Pegasus" launched the series in 1981, and a stylistic and geographical mix of artists have been showcased over the years. The signed collector editions continue to significantly increase in value, and the quality of the Poster series has been recognized worldwide.