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Bringing community together through the Kentucky Derby Festival

The President and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival is one of us, a hometown man who wants to highlight the incredible community Kentuckiana has grown.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville during the Kentucky Derby Festival is as unique as it gets.

It’s part of Kentuckiana’s DNA.

“I hear so many of those fantastic stories,” Matt Gibson, KDF President and CEO, said. “It used to drive me crazy in high school and college when people would say ‘I can’t wait to get out of this town,’ and I would think ‘why would you want to leave this town?’”

The Kentucky Derby Festival sets us apart from communities around the world.

“When I took over this role, my predecessor handed me the torch and said ‘make sure you ensure the rest of the history while you’re standing and doing this job, and you take that very seriously,” Gibson said.

Matt Gibson is currently the president and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival. But, back in 199, he was just a kid from Kentuckiana on the Belvedere, watching the fireworks.

“It was the first Thunder Over Louisville on the river and at that time you’re wondering what opportunities are out there for someone at that age,” Gibson explained. “I was probably approaching 18 at the time. I had a lot of ideas about what I wanted to be and I can remember standing at the very first Thunder that was on the river and thinking, ‘oh my goodness, is this somebody’s job?’”

A handful of years later, Gibson started as an event manager and worked his way into different positions inside the organization. Then after a national search in 2019, they chose him as the president and CEO.

“It is one of the best jobs on the planet and it is something that has kept me going year after year after year because it becomes part of your DNA.”

The KDF is uniquely Kentuckiana and part of who we are as a community. And the man at the top – is one of us.

Matt Gibson and the team around him are Kentuckiana Proud.

“It’s one of the largest festivals in the world, definitely one of the largest festivals in the United States,” Gibson said. “It’s a gem here in this community and we take it very seriously. We are in the business of fun.”

The Kentucky Derby Festival consists of 23 full-time staff members, 75 board members, scores of community sponsors and thousands of proud volunteers.

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