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Kentucky Derby Festival Celebrates the Big Race in More Way Than One

Added on: March 27, 2013

For about two weeks before the Kentucky Derby every year, the activities seem endless. Louisville truly comes alive when the Kentucky Derby Festival takes place. It first took place in 1935, and has been running continuously every year since 1956. It is one of the biggest events in the state of Kentucky.

The festival begins with a bang - literally. Thunder Over Louisville is the largest fireworks display to be found anywhere in the United States. It last for a half hour, but that is one the most explosive half-hour periods anyone will ever see. It also includes an air show that has hundreds of thousands of fans who are lined up along the Ohio River.

The Great Balloon Race is part of the Great Balloon Fest, which also includes the Great Balloon Glow and the Great Balloon Glimmer, and takes place the weekend before the Derby. There is the Kentucky Derby Festival Basketball Classic, which happens to be the oldest high school all-star basketball game in the country. The Great Bed Races bring together ordinary folks who, well, race beds, with forty teams that include some local television personalities.

The Great Steamboat Race pits the Belle of Cincinnati against the Belle of Louisville. And event organizers have come up with a number of different criteria that has made determining the winner much more involved and interesting than just who will cross the finish line first. Members of the public can buy tickets to ride the boats while they are racing. The Great Steamboat Race has been taking place since 1963. Celebrity Day at the Downs is always a big event, taking place on the Thursday before the Derby.

The Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and Mini-Marathon is the largest day of road racing in the state. And people from all over the country come to compete in the 13.1-mile and 26.2-mile races that move through the city of Louisville. The Mini-Marathon is at the point where it collects more than 10,000 entrants. The long Marathon has seen a field of more than 2000. The event happens on the Saturday before the Derby.

As you can see, people around the state of Kentucky get very excited about the Derby, for more than one reason!