The previously announced “I am Ali” festival, honoring the life of hometown hero Muhammad Ali, has been expanded to six weeks from 10 days, each week corresponding to one of Ali’s six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality.
Donald Lassere, president and CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, said the extended timeline was necessary because so many community organizations wanted to be involved. The announcement was made Wednesday morning in the new Ida B. Bond Gallery in the Al Center.
Upon Muhammad Ali’s death last year, a coalition of city agencies and nonprofit groups put together the “I am Ali” festival in about 48 hours, according to Mayor Greg Fischer’s Chief of Staff Ellen Hesen. The event drew around 15,000 people, mostly children.
The event will kick off with a Muhammad Ali Appreciation Night at Slugger Field on the anniversary of Ali’s death, June 3.
Former Louisville Bats MVP and current Reds infielder Hernan Iribarren modeled a commemorative Ali-themed Bats jersey that the players will wear that night. Later those jerseys will be auctioned off with proceeds benefitting the Ali Center. The first 5,000 attendees that evening will receive an Ali-themed souvenir hat.
Iribarren said that Ali inspired everyone to “find the greatness in themselves.”
The event will close with a 10-day girls’ basketball tournament with some 17,000 girls and their coaches and families in attendance. The tournaments will take place in Freedom Hall, the site of Ali’s first professional fight, and other venues at the Expo Center.
In addition to competing, the attendees will also complete service projects in the area. A special app for finding and tracking those service hours will be available in March, Lassere said.
Details of other events are still being firmed up.
According to Jason Rittenberry, the president and CEO of the Kentucky Fair Board, and Lassere, the tournament is part of a push to make Louisville the “Youth Sports Capital of the World.”
Karen Williams, president and CEO of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said it is creating a self-guided tour brochure for Ali-related sites in Louisville.
Hesen cited a popular quote of Mayor Fischer’s: “Muhammad Ali belongs to the world, but he only has one hometown.”
The festival will culminate on July 15.