Fund for the Arts To Help Kick Off Churchill Downs’ Opening Night

Kentucky Derby
(Churchill Downs teams up with Fund for the Arts on Opening Night)

From the Churchill Downs Media Team:

Churchill Downs and Fund for the Arts will kick off Derby week for the fourth year by adding live performances by local artists to the evening of live racing at Opening Night presented by Budweiser. For the second year, the event’s theme will be orange, the color of creativity and encouragement, to celebrate Louisville’s exciting arts community. Guests are encouraged to incorporate orange into their outfit. Opening Night is Saturday, April 27. Tickets are available at

The evening will include more than live 20 performances by more than 150 local actors, dancers, musicians and visual artists throughout the track and on Churchill Downs’ Big Board. Each artists was chosen for how they incorporate orange into their performance.

Featured Plaza Stage entertainment includes:

  • Karan Chavis: 7:15 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Zach Longoria Project: 9:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
  • Short performances by YOYA Dance Troupe, Kentucky Shakespeare and Dancers Center for Training between 5:50 p.m. and 6:40 p.m.

Artists performing throughout the Racetrack include:

  • Amberly Simpson & Dancers – modern dance performances
  • Demi Bechtloff – umbrella installation art
  • BioGlitz – performance art with glitter bar & glitter models
  • Louisville Listens & Danny Seim – music and piano installation and performances
  • CirqueLouis – contemporary circus performances
  • The Art of Kacy (Kacey Jackson) – live mural painting
  • ·Resko Art (Braylyn Stewart) – live mural painting
  • ·Chris Chappell – live mural painting
  • ·Francisco Cardona – “Planet Orange” LED art installation
  • ·The Louisville Leopards – student percussion ensemble performance
  • ·Wheeler Elementary School – installation art by 120 Wheeler Elementary 5thgraders
  • ·Dancer’s Center for Training – dance performances
  • ·YOYA Dance Troupe – Chinese folk dance performances
  • ·KMAC – wearable art performances
  • ·Sarabande Books – roaming personalized poetry
  • ·Fazier History Museum – actress performing in a custom-made 1904 Derby dress
  • ·Wonnd & Twine – barrel art installation
  • Kentucky Shakespeare – roaming performance art
  • Lynn Dunbar Bayus – live painting
  • Grant Goodwine – live painting

During Opening Night, Fund for the Arts and Churchill Downs will present the 2019 Awards in the Arts presented by Kindred Healthcare and Joy Mangano, a separately ticketed charitable event in the Starting Gate Suites that celebrates the arts community in the Greater Louisville region and the arts contribution to our unique cultural landscape and quality of place. Most of all, Awards in the Arts celebrates the artists themselves and their talent and passion for transformative and inspiring works of art. The seven Awards in the Arts award winners, which include the National Award in the Arts, National Arts Advocate, Lifetime Achievement, Arts Innovation, Arts Education, Arts Impact and Emerging Leadership, will be broadcast live on the Big Board.

For the fourth year, Opening Night’s featured racing event is the annual running of the $100,000 William Walker Stakes. William “Billy” Walker Sr. was one of Churchill Downs’ leading riders and trainers and an accomplished expert on breeding and bloodlines for 25 years. The African American jockey guided Derby winner Baden-Baden to a two-length victory in 1877 and advised the breeder of five Derby winners, three Hall of Famers and Triple Crown-Winner, Sir Barton (1919).

Admission starts at $17 and Reserved Box seats start at $34. Courtyard tickets are $104 and Winner’s Circle Suite tickets are $130 and each includes admissions, full bar, small plates and a program. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. with first post at 6:00 p.m. Recommended attire is Dress to Impress cocktail attire that incorporates orange and fashionable headwear.

The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds

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