LouisvilleKY native named as 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival Chair


Louisville, KY.   – Louisville native, Marita Willis, will chair the 2019 Kentucky Derby Festival. She was elected by the Festival’s Board of Directors at its annual meeting tonight. Willis is Major Gift Officer at the American Red Cross. She follows the leadership of Scott Watkins, who will continue serving as Immediate Past Chair of the Derby Festival.

Willis was first elected to the Derby Festival Board in 2010 and has been a member of the KDF Executive Board since 2012. She has served on committees for several Derby Festival events and programs, including the U.S. Bank Great BalloonFest, Celebrity Day at the Downs, Pegasus Pins, the Basketball Classic, KDF’s Diversity Committee and the Uniform Committee.

Michael E. Berry continues as President and CEO of the Derby Festival. Mike Ziemianski, VP of Development, St. Meinrad School of Theology, was elected Chair-Elect; Judy Hess, Community Relations Coordinator, Horseshoe Southern Indiana, was elected Vice Chair; Mike Shea, was elected Secretary; and Scott Kuhn was elected Treasurer.


Joining the 75-member board as newly elected directors are: J.P. DeLaney, Logan Lavelle Hunt; Bill Fisher, Omega Consulting; Marti Hazel, WDRB Media; Rebecca Matheny, Louisville Downtown Partnership; Christy Moreno, new WHAS-TV General Manager; Maria Smith, Harbor House of Louisville; Colleen Truman, Gannett/The Courier-Journal; Janice Cates, Mayor’s Office (Ex-Officio); Debra Rayman, President, The Fillies, Inc. (Ex-Officio).

Dates for some of the Festival’s signature events are already set for next year. The 2019 Festival will kick off a week earlier than usual due to the Easter holiday. Thunder Over Louisville – the Kentucky Derby Festival’s Opening Ceremonies – will be held on Saturday, April 13. The U.S. Bank Great BalloonFest is April 25-27, Kroger’s Fest-a-Ville opens on April 25, the miniMarathon/Marathon Presented by Humana will be April 27, Great Bed Races is April 29, the Great Steamboat Race isMay 1, and the Republic Bank Pegasus Parade is set for May 2.

Since 1956, the Derby Festival has worked to bring the community together in celebration. The Festival is an independent community organization supported by 4,000 volunteers, 400 businesses and civic groups, Pegasus Pin sponsorships and event participation. This involvement has made the Festival the largest single attended event in Kentucky and one of the leading community celebrations in the world.