Festivals & Major Events

Suhas Kulkarni, Director of the Office of Globalization

Greater Louisville is home to some of most unique and celebrated festivals in the United States. The Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF), a series of events leading up to the running of the Kentucky Derby, won the 2013 Gold Grand Pinnacle at the International Festivals and Events Association’s 58th Annual Convention and Expo. This is the seventh time that KDF has won this award, which is given in recognition of the best overall festival program in the world.

Other festivals in Greater Louisville celebrate local history, culture, and community traditions. Music fans look forward to the Forecastle Festival, the National Jug Band Jubilee, and Waterfront Wednesdays. Many area celebrations have ethnic roots. There is the Irish Fest, the Butchertown Oktoberfest, and World Festival, where immigrants and refugees showcase their native cultures.

“Greater Louisville residents are always looking for new ways to have fun.”
– Suhas Kulkarni, Director of the Office of Globalization

“Worldfest is probably the best presentation of our internationalism,” explains Suhas Kulkarni, Director of the Office of Globalization. “We have in a three, four-day event 40-50 nationalities represented in arts and craft which is testimony that we are an international city.”

Kulkarni says festivals strengthen Greater Louisville by encouraging residents to gather in one place and create fond memories together. He believes community leaders had this in mind when they designed the waterfront because there are areas that seem tailor-made for hosting large festivals. This year was the first time Cinco de Mayo was celebrated with its own festival in Greater Louisville, and Kulkarni expects more annual events to be added to the local calendar over the next few years. When all is said and done, Kulkarni says Greater Louisville residents are always looking for new ways to have fun.

The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Oaks & The Kentucky Derby
First Friday & Saturday in May
Churchill Downs

Even if you just moved here, chances are that you have the first weekend in May already circled on your calendar. Whether you’re at the track or at a friend’s Derby party, the Run for the Roses lives up to its historic reputation and offers an experience like no other. More than 120,000 Mint Juleps are poured during the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks and more than 400 roses are included in the garland of roses for the Derby winner. The longest continuously staged sporting event in the world and the first leg of the Triple Crown of thoroughbred horse racing just keeps getting better and better. The running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May is preceded by the Kentucky Oaks the day before. You simply have to be there — at least just once to be a true Kentuckian.  Whether you’re cheering on your horse from Millionaire’s Row, the grandstand or the infield, the excitement of watching the “greatest two minutes in sports,” surrounded by thousands of people is what makes Derby such a unique event.


Kentucky Derby Festival
Two Weeks Prior to Derby
584-FEST (3378)

The Kentucky Derby Festival is one of the premiere events of its kind in the world, attracting nearly 1.5 million people who gather to celebrate spring, the rich Derby tradition and the unique vitality of the Louisville community. With the most exciting two minutes in sports drawing attention to Louisville in many parts around the globe, it’s only fitting that the city takes two weeks to celebrate the momentous occasion.  Thunder Over Louisville headlines the Kentucky Derby Festival, with traditional events such as the Pegasus Parade and Great Steamboat Race giving Louisville residents and visitors plenty of opportunities to be a part of history in the making.  Two-thirds of the Festival events are free, so families can enjoy numerous just-for-kids activities without stretching their pocketbooks. With more than 4,000 volunteers and the support of 400 sponsors, the Derby Festival hosts a whirlwind of 70 special events throughout the city. By purchasing a Pegasus Pin (located at over 1,000 local retail outlets and banks), you can gain access to the many Festival events, receive coupons and win free merchandise.

Major Annual Events

Greater Louisville offers a variety of family-friendly events, musical performances, old-fashioned ice cream socials, outdoor theatrical presentations, ethnic festivals, art fairs, parades, balloon glows and an assortment of one-of-a-kind experiences that offer residents and visitors something to do practically every weekend. So, it’s no surprise that the city has earned recognition as the top “World Festival and Event City” in North America from the International Festival & Event Association. Louisville-area events have been recognized by the Southeast Tourism Society Top 20 and Kentucky Travel Industry Association Top 10 for their cultural and historical significance.

Visit Louisville.com for an up to date listing of events 

For a complete list request a FREE printed guide.