By Kirby Adams:
Louisville Courier Journal
The Kentucky Derby Festival has been postponed until later this year amid the continued coronavirus pandemic that has crippled numerous countries around the world.
The annual festival is made up of 70+ events, including Thunder Over Louisville and the Pegasus Parade, and ushers in the two-week period ahead of the Kentucky Derby, traditionally held the first Saturday in May.
Thunder Over Louisville will now be held Aug. 15.
“Public health and safety needs to be our focus right now,” Matt Gibson, Kentucky Derby Festival President and CEO, said in a news release announcing the change. “We want to help in that effort and we also want the community to know we will be here once we get through this.”
The Kentucky Derby Festival will release new dates for other events as soon as they are finalized. as well as information on ticketed events, participant registration and refunds.
Gibson cautioned, though, that the 2020 schedule of Kentucky Derby Festival events "may look a little different with events moving into a new timeframe, but our goal is to have Thunder Over Louisville, the miniMarathon, the Pegasus Parade, Fest-a-Ville and the Chow Wagon, and many other events in between.”
Churchill Downs racetrack also announced Tuesday that the Kentucky Derby would move to Sept. 5. This is the first time since 1945 that the Kentucky Derby will not be held on the first Saturday in May.
Louisville will be heading into an extremely busy few months with the new changes, which features Thunder Over Louisville Aug. 15, The Kentucky State Fair Aug. 20-30, The Kentucky Derby Sept. 5, and then the Trifesta concert series: Hometown Rising Sept. 12-13, Louder Than Life Sept. 18-20 and Bourbon & Beyond Sept. 25-27.
Earlier this month, the Kentucky Derby Festival announced it would be postponing all of its events between now and April 5, including the Macy's Spring Fashion Show, originally scheduled for March 26 at Caesar's Southern Indiana Casino in Elizabeth, Indiana.
“There are a lot of moving parts with all the events. We just ask that everyone be patient as we work to get things rescheduled,” Gibson said in the release. “We will work to ensure this transition to new dates is as seamless as possible.”
The new date for Thunder Over Louisville will not keep Zambelli Fireworks from continuing its annual orchestration of the pyrotechnics over the Ohio River.
"We'll definitely be there" on Aug. 15, said a representative for Zambelli Fireworks, the New Castle, Pennsylvania-based company that has been behind Thunder's pyrotechnic spectacular since 1991.
Zambelli Fireworks touts the annual Thunder show as the largest annual pyrotechnic production in North America.
A spokesman for the Kentucky Air National Guard said the new August date for Thunder makes it "hard to predict" what aircraft will be available to take flight during the show but added that the military force always enjoys participating in the event.
The Kentucky Derby postponement is the latest move made by Churchill Downs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. On Saturday, the track announced it would delay the opening of its stable areas for two weeks until March 31. On Sunday, Churchill suspended operations at Derby City Gaming and its on-track simulcasting center. Churchill plans to reopen both March 30.
The Kentucky Derby Festival entertains more than 1.5 million people in a two-week period and has a local economic impact of more than $127 million. The festival the largest single attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.
Gibson said festival fans who have already purchased a 2020 Pegasus Pin should hold on to them as they will still be used when the festival is held later this year.
This year marks the 65th Kentucky Derby Festival. Various events on the schedule have been moved or postponed in previous years but this will be the first time the entire festival has been postponed.