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There are many events in Louisville year round. Louisville is also in close proximity to smaller towns with their own festivals, history, antique shops, and restaurants with a history of their own.
The first Saturday of May is the Kentucky Derby at the historical Churchill Downs. The Derby celebration kicks off two weeks before, with the largest fireworks display in North America, Thunder Over Louisville. The event lasts all day with vendors, an aviation display that begins at 3 pm, and the fireworks that begin at 9:30pm. Thunder Over Louisville is a free event
The week leading up to Derby there are many events to entertain. The Chow Wagon located on the Ohio opens the day of Thunder Over Louisville and closes on Derby Day. The Chow Wagon consists of many food and beverage vendors with daily performances by local entertainers from all genres.
There are several other events you can enjoy - check the Kentucky Derby Festival website for dates and more info:
The Balloon Glow is a magical evening for adults and children alike as the balloons are inflated, and sparkle against the night sky. It's a beautiful experience that you and your children will not soon forget. Admission is free with a Pegasus Pin, parking is $7.00.
The last Saturday of April, there are many events happening as Derby week begins in full style. The Great Balloon Race is in the morning. Times vary as the event is dependant on weather and wind conditions. The event can be rescheduled for the afternoon, and can also take place on Sunday if Saturday is called off.
Other events on Saturday include the Mini-Marathon (13.1 miles), and the Marathon (26.2 miles). There is also the Cherokee Art Festival, a small but nice gathering of various artists fares, music, and food.
Here are some other events - you can verify the dates on the Louisville.com website :
The Great Steamboat Race. The Belle of Louisville and square off on the mighty Ohio for the bragging rights and of course the Golden Antlers. Fans of this event can watch from the river side, and tickets can be purchased to take the ride during the race.
The Pegasus Parade - this parade goes down Broadway, and features the Derby Princesses on their float and various celebrities that have come in for the Derby. If you'd like to attend the track they will also have the Festival in the Field on this day. Where local bands and well known bands will play on a stage set up in the infield of Churchill Downs.
Oaks Day. The main race of the day is The Lilly's for the Fillies. A wonderful day to wear one of your beautiful hats to the races. This day is also easier to spot stars that have come in for Derby. There are many local star-studded galas and parties around the Louisville Area. This night is where a few of the star romances have begun, or have been made public. If you aren't attending a gala event not to worry. The Louisville area bars and clubs are more than happy to oblige the party atmosphere. The town is alive with people from all over the world that have come in to have a great time. The local taverns will stay open until 6 am Derby Eve, and re-open at 7 am Derby day. That's right, one whole hour of no drinking.
There are many ways to enjoy Derby Day in Louisville. There are many ranges in seats and ticket prices at Churchill Downs. Also available is admission in to the infield. There are family areas in this area, which may be preferable, since other areas aren't so family-oriented - resembling more of a Mardi Gras gone wild. Betting booths are available here as well, although you probably won't see a horse. You will see the wildest hats, the best outrageous outfits, groups of friends gather in their themed attire, and a lot of people having a great time. You can not bring alcohol in to Churchill Downs. However, a local tradition is to find the best ways to hide this contraband. If you are caught, it gets thrown away, but if you are creative, you will be cheered on by your surrounding infielders. After the Derby, the local bars, taverns, and clubs are ready to entertain you for the rest of your evening. As always, actually picking the winning horse, is a huge cause of celebration.
The Jug Band Jubilee is an all day music festival celebrating America's happiest music at Louisville's Waterfront Park the third Saturday in September. This FREE event draws bands from all over the United States (and sometimes internationally) to share in the joy of making Jug Band music. It is a family friendly event that is sure to please. Afternoon workshops for children and adults on how to use some of the unique musical instrements featured in jug bands, such as kazoo, washtub bass, jug, musical saw and rubboard. Food and drink are available for purchase, including BBQ and beer! See the Jug Band Jubilee web page for all the details and music from past performances. http://www.jugbandjubilee.com/
Other special events in Louisville include The St. James Court Art Fair. An outdoor art show held the first weekend of October in Downtown Louisville with the historical Victorian homes serving as a beautiful backdrop as the leaves canopy your walk. This art show brings artists from all over. It is rated the largest outdoor art show in North America, and the best juried show. Here you can view various forms of art from artists around the Country. Items can be found ranging in price from $2.00 to $20,000.00. Every type of art you can think of is represented at this event
including Pottery, Photography, Large and Small paintings, sculptures,
jewelry, whimsical art for children or the child in you, glass, stain
glass, wooden items ranging from kitchen tools to fine detailed rocking
horses. This is an event for all, admission is free, pets are not
welcomed, and you may want to take two days to make sure you can see it
all. The even begins Monday and ends Sunday evening. It's a must see and do if you are lucky enough to be visiting during this time of year. Their website has more details and information about this wonderful art event.
The 18th Century Market Fair held the last weekend of October at Historic Locust Grove recreates a market fair from the late 1700's. Craftsmen sell handmade knives, blankets, tin & copperware, furniture, clothes (18th century style!), handknit hats, mittens, fabric & more. Musicians and entertainers delight the crowds all day each day. Some 400 re-enactors from the American, British & German forces are camped on the grouds. Period food & drink like the ancestors ate also available.