The Kentucky Derby Festival: A two week celebration leading up to the greatest two minutes in sports – The Kentucky Derby! How does a state, known for bourbon, horse racing, and “The Turtle Man” ring in the first race of the Triple Crown? By lighting up the Ohio River, flying high in the sky, sampling the best food and drink that Kentucky has to offer, and so much more!
The Kentucky Derby Festival, attended annually by an estimated 1.5 million people, had an extra-special participant this year as Zappos.com joined the sponsorship team for the first time! The Zappos.com hot air balloon delighted morning commuters in the Rush Hour Race, placing second with veteran pilot Charlie H. The race preceded the breathtaking Balloon Glow that occurred on Friday, April 28th, lighting up the Kentucky night sky to the delight of at least 180,000 people.
But the balloon wasn’t the only way Zappos’ presence was felt at the 57th annual Festival. Zappos employees and guests had the best seats in the house for the kick-off airshow and fireworks display, Thunder Over Louisville. Spectators watched the largest fireworks presentation in the nation from the Second Street Bridge, with a vantage point that not only gave them an up-close perspective of the pyrotechnics, but allowed for a view of the Indiana and Kentucky shows, synced up as they blasted on both sides of the bridge. The presentation of the Zappos.com Balloon was scheduled for the Fest-i-Ville Balloon Glimmer, that, despite weather cancellations, allowed for a fantastic time at the large, catered Zappos tent closest to the main stage action! In addition, over 250,000 people lined the streets to see the floats of the Pegasus Parade, the Zappos Zone filled up with 3 sections of fans, both employees (who donated to Relay for Life in exchange for coveted bleacher seats), and members of the community who were randomly selected to join in the family fun!
More entertainment was slathered on the two week celebration as Bed and Steamboat Races took off, free music concerts, including Eddie Money, George Clinton, and AWOLNATION, rocked the river, and nearly 18,000 pairs of feet and wheels pounded the pavement of the Derby Festival Marathon and Mini Marathon. Some familiar faces could be seen among the runners bounding towards the finish line. Zappos employee Kari H called the 13.1 miles “a lot of fun”,” running with her father who had come from Atlanta, GA to participate in his first half-marathon. The 8th mile was the highlight for many runners, when the course rounded the infield in Churchill Downs -- an area that would look dramatically different the following weekend, when the crowd descended on the 138th Kentucky Derby.
The Kentucky Derby Festival has come to represent the spirit that enlivens the city of Louisville. Hopefully Zappos.com can continue to add its own energy to the celebration for years to come!
Thunder Over Louisville- 400,000
Balloon Fest-i-Ville and Glimmer (with Zappos Zone catered tent) - 55,000
BalloonFest Balloon Glow - 180,000
Derby Festival Marathon/Mini/Expo - 19,733
Derby Festival Marathon/Mini Finishers - 16,500
Pegasus Parade - 250,000 ticket holders (more without tickets)
Pegasus Parade Viewership - Televised to over 140,000 viewers on NBC affiliate Wave3 ALONE!