Editor’s Note: This story has been updated. The Great Gatsby Thurby event has been canceled.
It’s almost time to check out of reality for a week. Friends in other states will think you’ve gone missing. Your DVR and Netflix queue will runneth over. Your lawn will not get mowed, bills will not get paid. It’s Derbytime in Louisville, and that’s all anyone needs to know.
We’re attempting to round up some of the events leading up to the fastest two minutes in sports, and by attempt, we mean scratch the surface. There’s more to do here starting Friday than in any other city in the world, and although that merely is a guess, we will pony up some money that it’s a safe bet.
Gambling, drinking and dancing into the early morning hours are practically mandatory for Louisvillians and all the out-of-town guests who flock here to checkmark their bucket lists.
So where do we even start? With the Kentucky Derby Festival, of course.
Chow Wagon action — April 28-May 5
The free KDF concerts start Friday, April 28, and remember, there are two stages. The Waterfront Jam stage will host the national acts, and that includes Daya, Hunter Hayes, the Sugarhill Gang, Drive-By Truckers and more. And then there’s the locals-only stage, aptly named the Chow Wagon, featuring our favorite regional performers.
Check out the schedules:
Waterfront Jam: National Acts
- Friday, April 28 — Daya, Tryon
- Saturday, April 29 — Hunter Hayes, Carly Pearce
- Sunday, April 30 — Sidewalk Prophets, John Tibbs, Hannah Kerr
- Tuesday, May 2 — Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Dee, Kurtis Blow
- Wednesday, May 3 — Drive-By Truckers, Frederick the Younger
- Thursday, May 4 — Jimmy Eat World, Colony House
- Friday, May 5 — DJ Gryffin
All concerts start at 8 p.m. except the Sunday show, which begins at 5 p.m. Admission is free with a Pegasus Pin.
Waterfront Jam: Chow Wagon
- Friday, April 28 — Halfacre & Haywood (11:30 a.m.), Jeni Carr (4 p.m.), Shane Dawson (8 p.m.)
- Saturday, April 29 — Me & You (12:30), The Monarchs (5), Kirby’s Dreamland (8)
- Sunday, April 30 — Passport GospelFest (2)
- Monday, May 1 — Kentucky Blue (11:30), Rearview Mirror (4), Unlimited Show Band (8)
- Tuesday, May 2 — Blues and Greys (11:30), Stone the Crow (4), Soul Circus (8)
- Wednesday, May 3 — Joe DeBow Band (11:30), Mary Mary (4), J.D. Shelburne (8)
- Thursday, May 4 — The Hoboz (11:30), Audio Addiction (4), Velcro Pygmies (8)
- Friday, May 5 — 3D (11:30), D Man & The Alley Hounds (4), Goldy Locks (8)
And speaking of KDF, don’t forget about the Great Ballon Race on Saturday, the Great Steamboat Race on Wednesday, the Pegasus Parade on Thursday and everything else they have going on.
Fourth Street Live lineup — May 4-6
If nothing above floats your boat, Fourth Street Live has a three-day concert lineup with even more national acts. Each show starts at 8 p.m. and requires tickets, which can be purchased at ticketfly.com or at the gate. Admission runs $5-$10.
- Thursday, May 4 — Lee Brice (country)
- Friday, May 5 — Dashboard Confessional, DJ Cash Cash (indie pop)
- Saturday, May 6 — Ookay (EDM)
Best of the rest — April 29-May 5
Jill’s Wish Derby Cocktail Party @ Bowman Field — Saturday, April 29
Want to go to a fancy Derby party but don’t have a couple hundred bucks to spare? This benefit gives you the best of both worlds — a reasonable admission fee that goes to a good cause, and the chance to dance, drink and hang out with the guys from Linkin Bridge.
The second annual Jill’s Wish benefit supports the nonprofit’s mission of helping people who are going through breast cancer treatment with financial burdens so they can focus on recovery. The event will feature music by Linkin Bridge and Thumper and the Plaid Rabbits, as well as appetizers by Captain Quarters and drinks by Brown Forman and Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey.
Tickets are $65 in advance or $75 at the door, and the party starts at 6:30 p.m.
Yelp’s Countdown to Derby @ various locations — April 30-May 5
The local folks over at Yelp have put together a six-pack of events for anyone who’s interested and has registered for free online at Yelp.com. From a lesson on how to make a proper mint julep to something called “Lunchtime Food Truck Bourbon Challenge,” the activities sound fun and engaging.
Voices High Heel Race @ Fest-A-Ville — Monday, May 1
A benefit for Voices of Kentuckiana, this first-ever event asks its participants to strap on high heels — yes, men and women — and sprint 100 meters toward a finish line. The race will be held at the Fest-A-Ville, also known as the Chow Wagon if you weren’t paying attention earlier, and begins at 7 p.m.
Cheer on your favorite runner or team as they try and not break an ankle. All proceeds from the participants’ entry fees go toward Voices, an all-inclusive community chorus that celebrates diversity.
Thurby with Girls Rock Louisville @ OUTERspace — Thursday, May 4
Want to hear great music and support an important cause? Girls Rock Louisville is hosting an epic rock ‘n’ roll party on Thurby, and a $10 admission gets you into a cool club, includes four bands and supports a nonprofit that teaches young girls how to rock.
Bands include GRLwood, On the Bang, Half-Seas-Over, and Lung. And after that party, OUTERspace is hosting NuLu Beach Club 2, which is separate but equal. Just go early and plan to stay late. OUTERspace is located behind Galaxie Bar in NuLu, at 732 E. Market St.
Great Gatsby Thurby* @ Water Tower — Thursday, May 4
Touted as a party for the locals, this “Gatsby”/1920s-themed soiree takes place at the historic Louisville Water Tower and features — wait for it — an open bar! Well, after you pay the admission fee, then it’s open. If you want to dress up and attend a party, this is one of the most affordable and less stuffy-sounding ones we’ve seen.
General admission tickets are $59 and get you access to the main tent with live music, light appetizers, an open bar and cigar waitresses who will be passing out champagne and mint juleps. VIP tickets are $99 and get you everything above, plus access to the Grand Hall inside the Water Tower where there will be a buffet, premium open bar and indoor restrooms. The party runs from 7 p.m.-midnight.
*Note: This event has been canceled.
Derby Eve Hometown Throwdown @ Turners — Friday, May 5
For those who want a truly Kentucky experience this Derby, head down to Turner’s on the river Derby Eve for some authentic honky-tonk, rock ‘n’ roll and soul music by the likes of Johnny Berry and the Outliers, the Dirty Church Revival, YNV (aka Your News Vehicles) and DJ Woodrow on the Radio.
Gates open at 8 p.m., and the music starts at 9. The event is 18+ and admission is $20. Turners is located at 3125 River Road.
Like we said, these events are only the tip of the iceberg sitting in an ocean of bourbon. If you’re still not satisfied, check out the folks at Do502.com for more local listings.