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Kentucky Derby Festival's 'Block Party' brings inclusivity, celebration to west Louisville

The event will mark a new tradition, celebrating the spirit of the season further west at the Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Complex.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It was all about ushering in a new era in west Louisville while celebrating “the block” as events leading up to the Kentucky Derby continue.

The inaugural “Block Party” was held at Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center in the Russell neighborhood on Saturday.

Community members filled the area checking out various foods, a vendor marketplace, a health and wellness center and live entertainment, which included performances from the River City Drum Corp and the Real Young Prodigys.

The change was welcome, especially for a community largely left out of celebrations surrounding the Kentucky Derby.

“It means that the Kentucky Derby Festival was listening, and they heeded the call,” Louisville Urban League President and CEO Sadiqa Reynolds said in a statement. “So many Black-owned business owners will increase their revenue because of this event and because KDF has expanded the voices, they are willing to bring to the table to inform their work. It feels like leaders are beginning to see that our community matters and the only way to have safe, healthy and thriving people is grow strong community buy in.”

Created with the support of Churchill Downs, Humana and the Derby Festival’s Derby Equity Community Initiative, it was their goal to have an annual event while shining the spotlight on talent and resources throughout the city, specifically minority-owned businesses.

Credit: WHAS-TV
Members of the River City Drum Corp perform during the inaugural Block Party event held at the Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Complex on Apr. 16, 2022.

Nachand Trabue, the creator of MELANnaire Marketplace said the event meant a lot to the community. 

"We were able to create the event that we wanted for our community. We know what our community needs and what our community wanted to do. The organizers came together and created it."

Trabue said about 75% of vendors at the Block Party sold out of their products and said it made an economic impact.

With that being said, festival officials wanted to create a culturally celebratory experience with the event and for the community., 

Reynolds said this day was “one of the most beautiful” she’s experienced in the city and further said it proves love can grow out of struggle when the fight is right and just.

“Louisville has the potential to be everything we all want our city to be and the more we push people to their full potential, the better off we all are.”

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