The Kentucky Derby has always seemed both an integral part of and wholly separate from Louisville, the town where it has been held annually on the first Saturday in May for almost 140 years. Its home track, Churchill Downs, with its iconic ivory spires and stockpile of rose garlands, is a name and place known around the world. In recent years, scads of Hollywood stars and household celebrities have flocked in growing numbers to the race itself, not to mention its fabulous before-and-after-parties. And the true stars -- the breathtaking thoroughbreds who compete in this first leg of the Triple Crown -- visit the River City from some of the most exotic and distant destinations imaginable.
With so much attention on a grand, even international scale being focused on the Derby, what is it about this occasion that makes is seem particularly Louisvillian? For residents and local businesses, it is the events that are held in the weeks leading up to the big race that incorporate the city into the celebration. The Kentucky Derby Festival offers more than 70 events for residents to enjoy over the course of two weeks, and in the few days leading up to the race, multiple charitable organizations benefit from the glamorous fetes being held at places like the Galt Hotel and Patricia Barnstable Brown's Highlands home. To help get you into the Derby spirit as the Big Day approaches, we have compiled an exhaustive list of these local events, complete with times, dates, and admission costs.