Popular Derby event Grand Gala calls it quits



Posted on February 22, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 22 at 11:42 PM

Should organizers continue to throw lavish Derby parties?

WHAS11 News has learned that the Grand Gala that usually takes place on Derby night is canceled this year.

Its hosted stars like Michael Jordan, Star Jones and Usher.

The organizers of the Grand Gala put out a statement Monday afternoon that says because of the economy, the devastation around the world and layoffs they have decided not to have the Grand Gala.

They say they will still have their business guests in for Derby and will host them at private events, news that comes as a shock to many people.

Now the Grand Gala organizers are pulling the plug on the star studded bash at the Galt House.

“Its really sad.  Its kinda depressing because it’s not a lot of events like that that goes on in Kentucky and that’s one of the major ones,” said Carolyn Craig.

News of the event being canceled officially came Monday.

The Grand Gala raised funds for the 828 foundation which supported various youth organizations and had been a popular Derby event for the last 8 years.
“Everything’s just stopping Derby now.  You kind of want to leave, it’s not like it used to be,” said Derrick Carr.

Many of the people who were shocked at the announcement never attended the gala but were saddened to see an African American event like this go away.

“It’s a sad thing because we always look forward to all the celebrities to come into the Louisville area and they bring about money,” said Debra Washburn.

WHAS11 talked to one of the key organizers Monday morning and he said without the gala many of the celebrities they usually bring to town won't come just for the Derby without the gala.

For the last eight years the Grand Gala brought in the who's who of African American celebrities.

“We need big events like this to show that Louisville has something to offer and as far as minorities I think this is one of those cities that up and coming but we don't get the credit that we should get,” said Chris Rich, local party promoter.

Rich is trying to bring in a multicultural Derby event to Louisville to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

He hopes his event will be as big as the gala.

 “Ii worked the event several years and it was always a nice event,” said Carr.

Derrick Carr drove celebrities around that came to town for the gala.
He said the Grand Gala represented more than just a party.

“Other twist is it was an African American event. It was always nice to see other people dressed up and we don't really get to do a lot in the Derby,” said Carr.

The event drew more than a thousand people every year and originally started at what was Caesars Indiana which is now Horseshoe Casino.

Organizers say they still plan to bring in their business guests for Derby but will host them at private events.

Late this afternoon, a key organizer says despite the statement issued earlier, there is a chance that something could be worked out late this week.

The Grand Gala is the second event to be canceled for this year.  Many of the organizers who were involved in the Mint Jubilee, which announced it would not take place in 2010, are now organizing a new event called the Julep Ball, which will also benefit the James Graham Brown Cancer Center.