LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Businesses are banking on people getting back into the Derby spirit to help carry them through a tough year. 

People celebrated the Kentucky Oaks outside of Churchill Downs on Friday night, on the eve of Kentucky Derby 147. Many of them seeming ready to celebrate the whole Derby weekend.

Friends were reuniting for drinks on Bardstown Road, while others celebrated the Derby at Fourth Street Live! in downtown Louisville.

"This is just an exciting time of year," said Louisville resident Tim Kelty. "Spring, Easter, Derby, you know it all just kinda rolls."

Kelty's group has been meeting up for the Derby for 30 years, but this year was a little different.

"You'll see I have my mask here and we're all aware that we're double vaccinated," he said. "It's sort of top of mind, you know, safety first. But we want to have fun, we want to see our friends." 

Kelty is hosting friends from Chicago who love to take in all Louisville has to offer.

"You win a little money, you lose a lot of money, but it doesn't matter," said Tom Renn, who came in from Chicago. "And you just meet the greatest people down here. It's such a great town."

Restaurants in the Highlands welcomed the Oaks crowds. Whether they went to the track, or were just outside enjoying the weather. 

Frankfort Avenue also got a boost in business.

"We're trying to make the best of everything and understanding COVID and all of that can kinda put a damper on things, but we're trying to have fun," said Cory Jenkins, who was working at the Four Pegs food truck.

Businesses like Four Pegs noticed people seeming ready to have fun again, and they're more than ready to welcome them back. Many say they expect to stay busy all weekend, especially after the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

"Anyone in or around the service industry, like, you know, you're in my prayers and in my head. Because we're all about to get slammed for the next 72-hours or so," Jenkins said.

Even if things aren't fully back to normal, the Derby spirit is still alive.

"I know for a lot of folks, just being able to hear 'My Old Kentucky Home' on the TV or in person, it's a really heartwarming thing, so I think we're all just grateful to be here and enjoy each other's company," said Kelty.

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