“Derby to me means home. Having left Louisville in 1996 for Dallas, then Atlanta, and now Charlotte, anytime someone asks where I am from, I proudly say Louisville, Kentucky. In turn, I get, ‘Oh, home of the Kentucky Derby.’ I come home to Louisville often, but no trip is like when it is Derby.”
— Stacey Bald, Charlotte, North Carolina
“Derby Day is my favorite holiday. I will happily work every Christmas, every Thanksgiving, but whether I go to the track or not, Derby and Oaks are my days to celebrate all my favorite things: horses, pretty hats, Kentucky and bourbon. I was devastated when it got moved, but I’m trying to change my mind from sadness to #fallingforderby.”
— Elizabeth Reichert
“It’s a time when our city and all the people who live here really shine. The best part may be the month before when we all start to say, ‘Let’s get back on that after Derby.’ It just won’t be spring without it.”
— Candace Jaworski, Old Louisville
“I grew up wanting to be a jockey. I would lay on the floor and watch TV all day leading up to the race. I always loved horses, like every little girl in the ’80s. And I just had it in my head that I would be the first female jockey to win the Kentucky Derby. I was the only 12-year-old I knew who had a subscription to the BloodHorse.
“We’ve watched the Derby everywhere — from the casino at French Lick to a random bar in Michigan, where they wouldn’t even turn the volume on, and I was incredibly upset. We used to have a house in Detroit, and we would go back and forth. We hosted our own Derby party there one year, and that’s where I realized that the world doesn’t revolve around Derby for everybody in the world. Because A) We were able to buy fresh mint, on the day of, which is hilarious, and B) I mentioned that we were going to watch the Derby to someone and they said, ‘Oh, do you do roller derby?’ And I’m like, ‘What are you even talking about? No, the Derby.’
“We rented our house out at Derby for a number of years. Especially since we moved into a big old house in Old Louisville, that income is a pretty sizable chunk of our operating budget for the year, because we bought this house with the intent of paying for it with Airbnb. We have two Airbnbs, and all bookings are either canceled by the guest or I’ve canceled them. So we obviously hope to recoup some of that this September, if everything is back in action. But it’s really hard to say at this point. That feels like it’s a long time away.
“It’s almost too big to comprehend the impact this will have on the city, on the hospitality industry — on really every aspect of life in Louisville. Our year revolves around Derby: Everything is either before Derby or after Derby. It’s such an economic impact for restaurants; that’s like their Black Friday. My husband and I, before all this happened, were actually talking pretty seriously about opening a boutique motel. And when we did some preliminary numbers on whether that would be feasible, it was not until I remembered Derby and put in Derby numbers that, all of a sudden, it had the potential to be profitable. Without that, I don’t know how a lot of our businesses will make it.
“On the first Saturday in May this year, I wonder if people will have fake ‘not’ Derby parties, if we can even be around each other again by then. I hope we can. I hope we can have a big celebration to say we can be around people again.”
— Dana McMahan, freelance journalist, Airbnb host
“I love to go to the barn in the morning. It’s such a relaxing thing to see these beautiful animals — to try to get a little closer to them. When it’s sunny out and you can see the gleam in their coats, it’s quite a feeling.”
— Jerry Moss, racehorse owner and co-founder of A&M Records (2017 Derby Issue)
“My first Derby was 2006. It was rainy; there were lots of tarps brought into the infield. I remember it being more like what I thought NASCAR would be like. I thought Derby was this really fancy thing, and then I remember coming in and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ There was a dude with a full Anheuser Busch tattoo on his back — like his entire back was the Anheuser Busch Eagle. And, like, he was lying facedown in a puddle. That was my first image of Derby, and I was like: ‘All right, I get it. It’s not this classy thing.’”
— Peter Tower, co-founder of Magnolia Photo Booth Co.
“I think my favorite part is — it’s kind of like everyone’s favorite part — we get to have a lot of people experience Louisville from other cities who may not have ever been, and it’s something that brings them in, and they end up loving the city. I always love talking to people who have that experience.”
— Shaina Wagner, event producer, Airbnb host
“Derby is a time when I connect with certain friends and family to share special memories and moments. It is a time that I get all dolled up and feel really confident about myself. It is a time when I feel even more proud to be born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Basically, if I couldn’t celebrate and attend something during Derby week, I would lose my mojo in life.”
— Lindsey Robbins, George Rogers Clark Park
“I like painting horses more than people. Their faces are different. I try to capture their eyes still because they do have — when you see a picture of a horse race, you can tell they’re in this very intense competition. You can tell that in their eyes.”
— artist Richard Sullivan (2017 Derby Issue)