Famous Kentucky Derby Festivals

The Kentucky Derby is an internationally-renown horse race that takes place in Kentucky. Celebrations and events are both a part of the Kentucky Derby tradition. The Kentucky Derby features a number of festivities that take place that weekend. Among these is the Hillbilly Outfield, a backyard party that starts Friday and ends the Sunday of Derby weekend. Among the famous event traditions surrounding the Derby is the Royal Court. The Court is a group of six women that is selected to preside over numerous Derby events.

Hillbilly Outfield

The Hillbilly Outfield Kentucky Derby party is a party held during the weekend of the Kentucky Derby. The Hillbilly Coalition, a group of volunteers, hosts the party (Hillbilly Outfield 2013). Between 400 and 500 people are in attendance each year. Ticket sales hover around $40, and cover food, drinking, camping space and entertainment (Keane 2010).

The party features food, drinks, Derby coverage, and other types of entertainment (Hillbilly Outfield 2013). Entertainment has included pool access, televisions with surround-sound, bonfires, a cornhole tournament, and a silent auction. The silent auction has included such unusual items as a shotgun, a haircut, and an electric guitar (Moss 2010; Shafer 2008). The party is held in Jim Hafendorfer’s backyard and takes place from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon (Guadagnoli 2007). Jim Hafendorfer’s backyard is 2 acres, and is located in Middletown, Kentucky. The party’s location has led to the event sponsor’s motto: “so far from the Infield, we’re all the way in the Outfield”.

The party supports the Make-a-Wish foundation, a foundation that helps children who have life-threatening illnesses (Hillbilly Outfield 2013).

The party originated in 2000, and will be celebrating its 14th year in 2017 (Everson 2009). It began as a small get-together of 20 or 30 people, as the partygoers did not want to pay $50 to attend the Churchill Downs infield party (Shafer 2010). Though initially free, the event sponsors began charging for the event due to concerns about unequal contributions from partygoers. As the event grew in size, Hafendorfer and his team began to have significant money left over after expenses. This prompted the party organizers’ decision to donate the leftover money to the Make-a-Wish foundation (Keane 2010). The event is large enough nowadays that the event organizers begin planning in January. Planning includes obtaining all of the necessary concessions and permits to hold the weekend-long bash. Party-goers have established a non-profit organization in order to facilitate the organization of the event (Shafer 2008).

The Hillbilly Outfield makes a net profit of between $27,000 to $35,000 a year. A portion of this money is saved as starting capital for the following year’s party, and the remainder is given to the Make-a-Wish foundation. This has been enough money for the organization to fund three wishes each year (Keane 2010).

The party includes all food and drink visitors wish to consume over the course of the weekend. The party hosting committee spends the two days prior to the event cooking in order to ensure there is sufficient food, and hand-makes all of the food. Some food is additionally donated by the local Krispy Kreme, Starbuck’s, White Castle, and Dairy Queen (Shafer 2010). In addition to the significant amounts of food served, the partygoers consume roughly 40 kegs of beer every year. The party supervisors, however, stop serving alcohol at 12:30 pm to prevent drunk revelers from being too rowdy (Keane 2010).

The party organizing committee rents out portable toilets, as partiers are not allowed within Hafendorfer’s house. The Outfield averages 10 portable toilets each year (Keane 2010).

In celebration of the Derby, wagering is also a main event at the Hillbilly Outfield. However, Hafendorfer does not encourage gambling himself during his party (Keane 2010).

The party has been so successful that partygoers have come from places as far away as Los Angeles to be able to enjoy its weekend festivities (Shafer 2010).

Royal Court

The Royal Court consists of a group of six young women chosen to preside over events related to the Kentucky Derby. These women officially represent both the Derby Festival and the city of Louisville. They attend between 60 and 70 events over the course of two weeks, and act as official ambassadors (Stoess 2013). One of the six is randomly chosen as Derby Festival Queen. The crowning takes place at the Fillies Derby Ball at the Galt House East Grand Ballroom (Kentucky Derby Festival 2013).

The Derby princesses form part of the Kentucky Derby’s rich tradition. With the first princess crowned in 1957, a year after the festival’s foundation, the princesses are nearly as old as the festival itself. The festival will celebrate its 140th year in 2013. Famous past princesses have included Gail Gorski – the first woman to be hired as a United Airlines Pilot – and Kentucky Gov. Martha Layne Collins (Stoess 2013; Hawkins 2013).

The women who participate receive a $2000 scholarship. The Fillies, Inc., and the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation issue these scholarships. Two alternates are also chosen in case one of the original princesses cannot fulfill her duties as part of the Royal Court (Kentucky Derby Festival 2013).

The individuals are chosen based on their community involvement, poise, personality, and intelligence. They must also at a minimum have a 3.0 grade point average and be enrolled in a local college as a full-time student. The members of the Royal Court must also be at least 18 years of age on or before Dec. 31 of the year prior to the Derby Festival where she will be a princess (Stoess 2013).

In 2013, the following six individuals were chosen as members of the Royal Court: Chelsea Diamond from Louisville, Kentucky, Katherine Gardner from Greenville, Kentucky, Allison Grant from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, Cameryn Jones from Goshen, Kentucky, and Dominique Luster from Louisville, Kentucky. The alternates were Amy Bastawros and Olivia McMillen, both from Louisville, Kentucky (Kentucky Derby Festival 2013; The Fillies 2012).

It can be difficult for the Court members to balance their Derby duties and their schoolwork. With their numerous appearances, some Derby princesses have requested that their finals be re-scheduled. However, the Derby princesses consider it worthwhile because of their opportunity to serve as well-rounded role models for the youth. They not only preside over the festivities – the Derby princesses represent community involvement, service, and poise. They also add to the festival atmosphere, expanding the Kentucky Derby beyond its humble beginnings as a horse race (Hawkins 2013).

The Kentucky Derby is a historic horse race with a rich history. As part of this history, the Royal Court assists events as official ambassadors of the festival. These princesses are chosen for their duties based on their community involvement, academic achievement, and poise. Parties during Derby weekend also represent an important aspect of Derby history. One of the most notable ones is the Hillbilly Outfield: a weekend-long party complete with camping, large quantities of food and drink, and a silent auction.


Hillbilly Outfield. 2013. “Countdown to the Party: It’s finally here! Time to party!,” Hillbilly Outfield – Kentucky Derby Party Website. < http://www.hillbillyoutfield.org/kentuckyderbyparty/About.aspx>

Guadagnoli, T. 2007. “Louisville and the Road to the Roses,” ESPN SportsTravel, 26 Apr. <http://espn.go.com/espn/thelife/news/story?id=2844525> .

Everson, Z. 2009. “Louisville Cool: The Hottest Parties of Kentucky Derby Week,” Black Book Mag, 28 Apr. < http://www.blackbookmag.com/nightlife/louisville-cool-the-hottest-parties-of-kentucky-derby-week-1.28449>

Keane, E. 2010. “Building the Perfect Derby Bash,” Metromix Louisville, April 20. < http://louisville.metromix.com/events/article/building-the-perfect-derby/1895209/content>

Moss, E. 2010. “Crunching the Numbers: Hillbilly Outfield,” Louisville Magazine, April.

Shafer, S. 2008. “Hillbillies make a wish at annual Derby party,” Courier Journal, 4 May.

Shafer, S. 2010. “Hillbilly bash keeps ‘em coming back,” Courier Journal, 2 May.

Kentucky Derby Festival. 2013. “The Royal Court,” Kentucky Derby Festival Online< http://discover.kdf.org/join-the-fun/royal-court/>

Stoess, J. 2013. “South Oldham grad chosen as a Ky. Derby Princess,” The Oldham Era, Jan. 14.

Hawkins, J. 2013. “Royal Court of college students key to Derby buildup,” USA Today, < http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/horseracing/2013/05/01/royal-court-college-students-kentucky-derby/2126969/>

The Fillies, Inc. 2012. “Royal Court,” The Fillies, Inc., 14 Aug. < http://www.thefillies.org/?page_id=30>