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The Kentucky Derby Festival poster series began in 1981, designed to generate interest in the festival. The poster series is nationally recognized and has helped to enhance the careers of artists around the country, This year's winner, Joe Weber, is an internationally award-winning graphic designer. The theme for this year's poster is "The Art of the Race". This 2004 image will grace posters, t-shirts, glasses and more than 100 other retail items.

From its humble beginnings in 1956, the Kentucky Derby Festival has grown into the Bluegrass State's largest single event and one of the biggest festivals in the United States. People from all over the world travel to Louisville each year to take part in the Derby Festival and experience the ledgendary Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May. With more than 70 events ranging from one of the country's largest half-marathons to the Pegasus Parade to an old fashioned steamboat race, the Kentucky Derby Festival offers a wide spectrum of activities for both local residents and visitors. Two weeks before Derby, the festival's opening ceremonies kick off with Thunder Over Louisville - the largest annual fireworks show in North America!

The popular trainer, Nick Zito, has three horses this year - all three of which are in the top ten favorites to win the Derby: Eurosmith, Birdstone and The Cliff's Edge
Zito posed here with The Cliff's Edge who won two graded stakes at Churchill Downs last fall

Son of 1996 Derby winner Grindstone
Brother of 2003 KY Oaks winner Bird Town

Winner of Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity

(as of march 10, 2004)

1. Eurosilver.......Nick Zito
2. Birdstone........Nick Zito
3. Read the Footnotes...Richard Violette
4. Action This Day......Richard Mandella
5. Gradepoint........Neil Howard
6. St Averil..........Rafael Becerra
7. Lion Heart.......Patrick Biancone
8. Master David......Bobby Frankel
9. Tapit.......Michael Dickenson
10.The Cliff's Edge..Nick Zito

Thunder    Over    Louisville
April 17, 2004

Now in its 15th year, Thunder Over Louisville continues to deliver a pyrotechnic spectacular like no other. Created as the Opening Ceremonies of the Kentucky Derby Festival, it offers an explosive kick-off to two entire weeks of celebration in Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana. It continues to be the largest annual pyrotechnic display in North America. It's the kind of show you have to see to believe. The secret with Thunder has been to pack as much firepower into 28 minutes as possible to create a heart-stopping, eye-popping show. The theme of this year's show is: "A Broadway Thunder". it salutes the classic entertainment showcased for decades on the theatrical stages of The Great White Way. Expect plenty of show tunes and pyrotechnic tributes to special Broadway shows that have become American favorites. Thunder will be held on Saturday, April 17, with the Air Show beginning at 3 p.m. & a 30-minute fireworks show at 9:30 p.m.

The    Great    Balloon    Race

Spectators turn out at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center to watch the festival’s Balloon Glow on the night before the Great Balloon Race. More than 50 hot air balloons in all shapes and sizes inflate in their launch position on the field, but do not ascend. They are lit against the blackness of the night sky, creating a spectacular effect. Spectators can walk around the field and talk to pilots on the evening before the big race. The next morning, the balloons lift off in an aerial chase of the Hare Balloon, with winds determining which direction they will go. The Hare Balloon stays aloft until it finds a suitable place to land, preferably in a vacant field. It lands and lays out a large fabric “X” as the target, then takes to the air again. The Hounds (the competing balloons) follow the Hare in hot pursuit, trying to throw a small bag of Kentucky Bluegrass seed as close to the “X” as possible, all without landing. After the first drop, the chase continues. The Hare then locates another landing area and descends to place the second target. Once again, the Hounds try to hit the center of the second target without landing. Race officials then measure the distance between the target and the bag of grass seed at both target zones and calculate points to determine a winner. The pilot with the two most accurate tosses is declared the overall winner and receives $3,000, as well as bragging rights for a year.

                                 Mini-Marathon    and                                  The    Great    Steamboat    Race

On the same morning as the Great Balloon Race, as many as 8,000 runners gather to participate in the 13.1-mile miniMarathon, which was first held in 1974 and is now considered one of the top five half-marathons in the country, The race, which is held on the last Saturday in April, attracts runners from across the United States. The course begins on Louisville’s south side and winds through the hills of scenic Iroquois Park before finishing in downtown Louisville. Along the way, participants pass by Churchill Downs and the University of Louisville, not to mention thousands of spectators who turn out to cheer on the runners.

On the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby, the excitement starts to build for another cherished racing tradition - the Great Steamboat Race. The event matches the Belle of Louisville against its river city rival, Cincinnati’s Delta Queen. The sternwheelers, two of only five authentic steamboats in operation, battle for 14 miles up and down the Ohio River, in quest of the revered “gilded antlers” awarded to the winner Thousands of spectators line the banks on both sides of the river to cheer the boats on. Families bring box lunches to the riverside, making for an afternoon of socializing and relaxation.