Joey Wagner knows a thing or two about staging parties — heâ€™s been doing it in Louisville for the past 15 years, so itâ€™s safe to assume that Wagner has got concrete plans for 2015â€™s Derby festivities. In fact, this year will see the return of his traditional Jocktails event, as well as a litany of other parties. But Wagner is about much more than parties â€“ heâ€™s also the go-to-guy for arranging entire weekends for other individuals. Whether that means organizing accommodations, security, or transportation. Wagner has all the necessary contacts at his fingertips, and as a result heâ€™s decided to launch his latest project DerbyVIP.com
â€œI have done Derby events for 15-plus years now,â€ explains Wagner. â€œFrom events to hospitality, security, transportation, house rentals. I received so many emails and requests for stuff that I thought of the concept for Derby VIP.com. I was able to bottle everything up into one website and now I can just tell people to go to that site and tell me what they need.â€
One way in which Wagner has become the party guy is by ensuring that the people at his parties are having a better time than anywhere else in the city, on a consistent basis. The way you do that is by staging events with the best music, entertainment and food and drink.
â€œThe key is to be outside of the box,â€ Wagner adds, â€œand I have had that same mentality since the beginning. Iâ€™ve always wanted to create an event that when you walk in youâ€™re like, â€˜Wow, this is awesome.â€™ And then when you walk out you canâ€™t wait to come back to our next event.â€
â€œI think weâ€™ve always done a good job with that, from the sponsors that weâ€™ve involved with our events, to the decor, to the clientele or the DJs that we bring in and I think weâ€™ve done a really good job with that.â€
For Wagner a personal favorite that followed this credo was a party back in 2007 where he got to meet some personal heroes.
â€œIn 2007 we did a party at an upscale lounge downtown called Felt, and it was a Thursday night party and Michael Jordan was there, and Gabrielle Union and it was probably the most celebrities that we have ever had at one event and it was the first time I had met him, Iâ€™m a huge fan and for him to come and thank me for a good time, that was pretty special.â€
And in the spirit of mixing it up every year, his event Jocktails held at the Ice House â€“ during which jockeys serve as bartenders to raise money for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund â€“ will have a special musical guest.
â€œIâ€™ve always had DJs at the party, but this year Iâ€™ve tried to put a twist on it and invited my good friend Joe Bachman,â€ explains Wagner.
But if that wasnâ€™t enough, on Derby night, Wagner has one more trick up his sleeve with a night of boxing that follows the day of the big race.
â€œOn Saturday night we have a watch party for the Floyd Mayweather/Manny Pacquiao fight which is like the Ali-Frazier fight of our time,â€ adds Wagner. â€œSo weâ€™re doing a huge fightÂ night party on Saturday night, sponsored by Dâ€™Usse and Grey Goose, which will be at The Gillespie.â€
For now, though, Wagner is busy getting ready for Derby, especially as this is the first year in which he will be juggling his regular duties with his first year serving on the board of directors for the Kentucky Derby Festival.
â€œThis is my way of giving back because the Festival has helped me,â€ concludes Wagner. â€œThe Festival is a two week event, and as I am an event planner, I feel I can bring a lot in terms of helping, giving advice, sponsors, marketing, promotion. I feel like I bring a lot to the table with my background.
â€œThe Kentucky Derby is the greatest sporting event in the world and for the Kentucky Derby Festival to be able to create this two week long party and festival of events for the city is amazing, and they all touch every single age demographic and person from every walk of life.â€Â
Photographer: Chris Humphreys
Photo Assistant: Adam Creech
Location: The Ice House, 226 E Washington St.