Louisville loses millions with Thunder Over Louisville cancellation

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Derby Festival will hold a number of events in 2021, but it festival will look very different than it did before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the festival officials.

In an online news conference, KDF President and CEO Matt Gibson said that Thunder Over Louisville will take place on Saturday, April 17, but without the crowds.

"There will still be airplanes and fireworks," he said, before cautioning that there will be no gathering at the waterfront.

"It's not at the waterfront," he said, "but it's something that you can enjoy at home, and it's going to blow your mind."

When questioned on how the festival planned to prevent those mass gatherings at the Waterfront, Gibson responded that, "It's safe to say that there won't be anything there for them to see at the waterfront."

He added that the program will include live components, as well as televised components. It would include civilian and military aircraft. He also said that it would be "city-wide" and would be able to be enjoyed by the entire community.

Gibson said the annual Pegasus Parade would also take place and  promised that it would be an event "the community can still enjoy," but added that, "we know we can't have a crowd lining Broadway."

He said more details about both events would be released in the coming weeks.

Gibson said another feature of the festival that would return this year would be Pegasus Pins, including a brand new pin for 2021. He said that, "beyond just being a collectible," the pins are a much-needed source of funding for the festival.

"We need that support now more than ever," Gibson said.

Gibson lamented that several annual indoor tasting events and outdoor gatherings would not be able to take place this year, but he did not specify which events.

"Those things just aren't possible this year," Gibson said, before adding, "We look forward to bringing those types of events back as soon as it is safe to do so."

"There is still going to be a little bit of everything -- but again, it is going to feel different," he said.

The news came during a Tuesday afternoon news conference in which Gibson and 2021 Board Chair Judy Hess provided an update about the festival's 2021 plans.

Dozens of KDF 2020 events were casualties to social distancing and concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. Thunder Over Louisville was first delayed until August last year before finally being canceled and costing the city millions in tourism dollars. Other signature events, including the Pegasus Parade and KDF Marathon, were also canceled.

A tribute to the Great Steamboat race between the Belle of Louisville and the Mary M. Miller was held the week before Kentucky Derby 146, which was run on Sept. 5 without fans at Churchill Downs. The racetrack hops to have fans back for the 2021 race on the first Saturday in May.

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