LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) -- The seventh annual Kentucky Derby Fest-A-Ville on the Waterfront kicked off Thursday with the Balloonfest, happy hour and much more.

The festival pulls in an average attendance of 175,000 people annually and this year isn't expected to disappoint.

"I think we're going to have a great week. A good ten days," said Jim Yowler, a vendor at the festival.  Yowler is hopeful. He's in from Cincinnati to sell German food to all the Louisville festival goers.

He says the consistency of the Kentucky Derby Festival is what keeps him coming back year after year.  "Louisville goes all out. It's a clean venue, a clean event. The families show up," said Yowler.

The vendors depend on good weather for successful sales. Yowler says every year it's a gamble.  "Last year it was stormy and rainy with high winds. We got flooded out a couple times," Yowler told WDRB.

Also dependent upon on good weather are the balloon folk.

New this year was the Balloonfest Crew Challenge. It gave visitors a chance to meet the balloon pilots and gave the pilots a chance for extra bragging rights.

"What we do is fill the balloons with cold air and we give a signal to go ahead and we time them to see how long it takes them to pack them up," said George Troutman, Balloon Meister.

As you might imagine, a lot of responsibilities come along with a title like that, including organizing the Balloon Glimmer.  "We'll have 17 balloons sitting up and they'll just be sitting here. The winds will die down as the sun goes down. We'll have a lot of people out here walking around and get to talk to the pilots," said Troutman.

Other visitors come for the Chow Wagon, the carnival rides or just to enjoy happy hour.

WDRB found some ladies who are visiting all the way from Texas.  "We are on a mother, daughter trip. My mother and my daughter and we just decided to pick Kentucky because we've never been here," said Amy Kowalchyk.

They say they've enjoyed the hospitality they've received downtown and at the waterfront.  They're happy with how efficient everything is.  "It's good because she can ride as many rides and there's not a long line for beverages or food," said Kowalchyk.

If you decide to stop by, you can buy a Pegasus Pin at the gates of Chow Wagon.

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