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'It's almost like a family reunion' | Neighbors of Churchill Downs ready for traditional Derby parking hustle

With ticket options for the Kentucky Derby going on sale Friday, business owners and neighbors are ready to make some extra money this Derby after a fan-less 2020.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With ticket options for the Kentucky Derby going on sale Friday, business owners and neighbors are ready to make some extra money this year especially after the COVID-19 pandemic put everything on pause in 2020. 

Churchill Downs will open limited reserved seating at 40-50% capacity, and up to 60% in private areas where you can socially distance.  

"So many people have already had their vaccinations and with Churchill Downs opening up some seats it's been great," said Kathy Olliges, owner of Dee's in St. Matthews. 

Last year's fan-less Kentucky Derby meant a loss in business. With cases declining in Kentucky and people being vaccinated, Olliges said she's been seeing traffic on her business' website and in-person. 

"Every day there are more and more people inquiring and bringing their dress in and hat made," Olliges said. 

Neighbors of Churchill Downs also felt the impact of last year's coronavirus restrictions. Neighbors have traditionally relied on the festivities to make extra money.

Richard and Bonnie Lorenzo live across Churchill Downs and have been a part of the neighborhood parking hustle for 30 years. But not even a vaccine will ease their concerns.

"You might be somewhat protected but they say you should still distance and wear your mask to protect other people if nothing else," the couple said. "And you know with parking and people coming in for Derby even if it's not as busy they're coming in from all over."

It's why the Lorenzos will not open the yard to drivers for parking during Derby week. 

"We'll be here watching from a little bit of a distance," the couple said. 

Teresa Castle who lives a few houses down from the Lorenzos is ready for the parking hustle.

"It's pretty nice it's almost like a family reunion," Castle said. 

She's expecting to charge about 40 cars for parking.  

"Money don't mean that much anymore it's the friendships and everything that mean a lot more," Castle said. "You see people, you talk to people and see how they're doing."

Churchill Downs says if cases continue to decline in Kentucky and things improve closer to Derby, it will consider selling more tickets for reserved seats and general admission.

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