Derby 2018: Local government gives a lot to Derby


LMPD joins together with volunteers to help plant trees around the Churchill Downs area to make the city look better before Derby. Photo courtesy of @KYDerbyFestival on Twitter.

Reece Gunther

The Kentucky Derby Festival is comprised of thousands of government and business volunteers and employees who spend several hours working to plan, present or host events in the Kentucky Derby Festival.

City agencies such as Louisville Metro Government, Public Works, EMS, Police, Fire and Louisville Electric combined with national agencies like the U.S. Coast Guard contribute to the festival every year in extensive ways.

According to the Louisville Metro Government website, they provide city services to all Kentucky Derby Festival events and supply nearly 1,000 volunteers at any given time throughout the festivals two-week span.

Metro government and law enforcement

“Louisville [Metro Government] has always been known to help out at Derby time. Louisville is known for the derby, in fact, Louisville is the Derby, so every city agency has a responsibility to uphold that tradition,” Steve Pollock, Director of Organizational Development for Louisville Metro Government said.

Volunteers build materials for Thunder over Louisville in preparation for this Saturday. Photo courtesy of @KYDerbyFestival on Twitter.

The Louisville Metro Police, Fire and EMS also contribute to the Kentucky Derby Festival every year by working emergency services for every event they have. At each event, you will find at least one police officer and EMT. The fire department works to ensure that building and area codes are upheld to maintain the safety of all attendees.

“At any time, we have up to 10 streets closed and somewhere around 200 officers devoted entirely to maintaining the safety at Derby Festival events,” Commander Tim Burkett of the LMPD Special Operations Division said.

LMPD joins together with volunteers to help plant trees around the Churchill Downs area to make the city look better before Derby. Photo courtesy of @KYDerbyFestival on Twitter.

On Derby day, Kentucky State Police also assist with security at Churchill Downs in cooperation with LMPD.

Louisville EMS contributes employees at nearly every Kentucky Derby Festival event to work first aid and assist in any capacity necessary that involves health. In previous years, Louisville EMS coordinated with Louisville Fire to provide a plan of action when Thunder over Louisville was facing extreme heat and several people would be out in the sun all day.

“I think back to years ago when we had to come up with a plan, and we had to come up with it fast. The temperatures were very hot for an April day, and so we went around handing out sunscreen. Sometimes the most important job we do is preventive measures,” Louisville EMS said.

JCPS Nutrition Services

JCPS Nutrition Services also contributes to the Kentucky Derby Festival by providing meals to children in need throughout the festival. They work in conjunction with the Mayor’s Give a Day week of service and compassion month to make sure everyone has a meal around Derby time.

JCPS opens some of their schools to provide hot meals to students, even when school is closed. Photo courtesy of @JCPSKY on Twitter.

Children who cannot usually attend Derby events are given the opportunity to attend through the Bus Stop Cafe initiative the district has piloted for the past few years. By giving them a meal and providing transportation to educational KDF events, the district hopes to inspire young minds to be active in their community and promote their district “Deeper Learning” education plan.

“Our goal when sponsoring the Kentucky Derby Festival is of course to help out wherever possible, but we think about the children involved in the community around this time of year. It is our goal to make sure we can educate students on the importance of getting involved in some of the biggest events around town, and nutrition services does a great job with that, especially during the Kentucky Derby Festival,” Julia Bauscher of JCPS Nutrition Services said.

Coast Guard and Derby Festival sponsors

In addition to local contributions, the United States Coast Guard is always present at Thunder over Louisville to supervise river and bridge usage during the event.

The Kentucky Derby Festival has hundreds of sponsors, including many government agencies from the local and state levels. In many government agencies, the attendees are the focus of their attention. Instead of providing money to the Kentucky Derby Festival, the agencies donate services to help residents and visitors alike.

KDF’s fencing contractor puts fencing up around the Chow Wagon for the Kentucky Derby Festival at the Waterfront. Photo courtesy of @KYDerbyFestival on Twitter.

“We never ask government agencies for money or funding. We get minimal funding from the local and state governments, but no agencies provide donations other than them. We greatly appreciate the agencies’ contributions to maintaining the well being of all participants in every single event that we have. Each play a vital role in the success of the festival,” said Jon Pollock, event manager for the KDF.

The city agencies will begin providing services at the “They’re Off!” Luncheon on Friday, April 20, and will continue through Derby day.

“It’s times like this where we can come together as a city and all contribute to one goal – maintaining the tradition and power that the Kentucky Derby has had on our community and society in Louisville,” Pollock said.