For Louisvillians, The Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF) is as much a part of spring as the blossoming magnolia trees. Since 1956, KDF has instilled civic pride and celebration around Louisville’s Kentucky Derby. That first year, the festival’s budget was just $640 and brought Louisville its first Pegasus Parade and They’re Off Luncheon.
In the last 63 years, the non-profit has expanded to more than 70 events with a yearly budget exceeding $7M. Residents of the Derby City would be hard-pressed to imagine a spring without Thunder Over Louisville, The Chow Wagon, or The Balloon Glow, to name just a few of KDF’s most well-known events, but many don’t know that the festival is separate from Churchill Downs and the Derby itself.
Some recently-added events to the ever-expanding festival are BourbonVille, a bourbon-tasting event at the Louisville Palace, and BeerFest at The Great Lawn.
This year, KDF’s updated website and app make finding and registering your Pegasus Pin, scoring merchandise, and planning which events to attend easier than ever before. Users can filter events by date, and type, along with ticketed or Pegasus Pin entry.
Carl Mittelsten, KDF’s executive assistant for the last 19 years, says even though events start in January, things really kick into high gear around mid-March. By mid-April, he’s in constant motion. Throughout the year, he’s in charge of scheduling meetings and arranging calendars for KDF’s president and CEO, and overseeing the logistics for their offices on Third and Kentucky Streets.
The Saturday before Derby, Michael Berry’s calendar is chock full. He’s attending events from 5:00 a.m. to eleven at night. Mittelsten is responsible for that calendar, as well as making sure festival VIPs have what they need and get where they need to go.
By Derby week, he’s all over the city, commandeering golf carts, ferrying celebrity guests around parade roadblocks with a special pass, then to dinner, and to and from the track as he coordinates communication for many and works to make sure things go off without a hitch. He’s too busy to attend many of the events, but has a hand in all of them.
When he picks up celebrities from the end of the parade, he said, “Nine times out of ten, they’re like, ‘Wow.’” VIPs don’t expect much out of a Kentucky parade. “They’re hesitant at first. But when they’re done, the enthusiasm this city has for the parade is amazing. On a clear day, there may be 250,000 people.”
“They’ll say, ‘People were so excited and I had so much fun. That was not what I expected.’”
“That gives me a lot of pride in the organization, the event we put on. I mean, this is my hometown. That’s a source of pride when these people come in and they’re so impressed by us and by our city that they want to come back.”
The staging ground for The Pegasus Parade is the parking lot of Duplicator Sales and Service and Derby City Litho. The family-run sister companies operate on the corner of Shelby and Broadway, and the lot is a show all its own as dancers, clowns, bike teams, and floats prepare to promenade down Broadway.
Duplicator Sale and Service are KDF’s copy machine suppliers, and Derby City Litho prints materials for the festival, like passes, letterheads, and programs for KDF’s They’re Off Luncheon, which presents The Silver Horseshoe Awards each year for outstanding community service.
The winner’s charity or charity of choice receives a financial award from KDF to continue their valuable work. 2018’s winner was Mayor Fischer, and the reward went to his Give A Day: Mayor’s Week of Service which invites Louisville organizations and individuals to volunteer. Give A Day is also an official KDF event.
The They’re Off Luncheon, hosted at The Galt House’s Grand Ballroom, features a celebrity speaker and up to 1,500 guests. Past speakers have included Lily Tomlin, James Earl Jones, Terry Bradshaw, and Archie Manning.
Mittelsten said that Duplicator Sales and Service understand the needs of a non-profit. “When I need to replace something, they work with me.” These days, it’s hard to find a company that will work to find cheaper alternatives, but the local office supplier is always ready to find ways to work within their customers’ budgets.
“They know this time of year, if a machine breaks down, that someone needs to be here right away. If I call them for supplies, I have them the next day.” If they’re out of toner, he knows he can call, pick it up, and be back on track within the hour.
When you need a local partner who understand your needs, look no further than Duplicator Sales and Service and Derby City Litho: your unduplicated office technology professionals.