Once again this year, UofL’s Marching Cards will be the “Official Band of the Kentucky Derby,” a role it has held since 1936.

The University of Louisville’s Belknap campus is less than 1.5 miles from Churchill Downs, but this “town and gown” relationship runs deeper than mere proximity.

UofL has been front and center since Derby season kicked off in late April and will hold that spot through this weekend’s Run for the Roses. Once again this year, UofL’s Marching Cards will be the “Official Band of the Kentucky Derby,” a role it has held since 1936. The Marching Cards will usher in the Most Exciting 2 Minutes in Sports on Saturday with their traditional rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home.”

The Cards will also be the first marching band to step off for the Pegasus Parade Thursday at 5 p.m. Leading the parade this year is UofL Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum, along with former UK coach Joe B. Hall, as co-grand marshals. Notably, these same two coaches participated in the 1975 parade.

UofL Junior Tara Dunaway will also have a big presence throughout the weekend as this year year’s Kentucky Derby Festival queen. And, on Friday for the 144th running of the Kentucky Oaks, UofL Men’s Basketball Coach Chris Mack will make the traditional “riders up” call.

UofL’s Derby presence extends beyond the track and into the legendary revelries. Former UofL Basketball legend Junior Bridgeman’s charity gala, “The Trifecta,” will raise funds for UofL’s Autism Center at Kosair Charities. The gala is expected to draw celebrity appearances from Arsenio Hall to Stevie Wonder. 

Other Derby ties

In addition to these direct connections to the world-famous horse race, there are several Derby-themed festivities at UofL year in and year out. UofL Hospital’s Annual Derby Kiddie-Bike Race, for example, is held the Wednesday prior and encourages employees to design their own jockey silks for a tricycle race competing for win, place and show.

A number of UofL School of Medicine students completed the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon and miniMarathon last weekend and promptly donated their medals to children fighting critical diseases. UofL joined Medals4Mettle in 2008 as the first medical school-based program in the country.

The annual Derby Lecture Series, hosted by the Chemistry Graduate Student Association, is May 7 at 12:30 p.m. in Gheens Science Hall and Rauch Planetarium. This year’s speaker is award-winning chemist Geraldine Richmond, from the University of Oregon. Richmond, who used to head up the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will speak on, “Empowering Global Scientific Engagement.”  

Finally, each year on the Thursday prior to the Run for the Roses, the UofL James Graham Brown Cancer Center hosts the Cancer Survivor Celebration. Music is provided by UofL School of Music performers, while the cancer survivors will be joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, UofL Hospital President Ken Marshall, and Jason Chesney, MD, director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

To get you in the Derby spirit, check out this video of the Marching Cards and the UofL Cardinal Singers opening the 2017 Kentucky Derby with “My Old Kentucky Home.”

Alicia Kelso
Alicia Kelso is the director of social media and digital content. She joined UofL in 2015 as director of communications at the Brandeis School of Law. She also serves as a senior contributor at Forbes.com, writing about the restaurant industry, which she has covered since 2010. Her work has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine.