Spotlight on Fillies Derby Ball

Photo By Tim Valentino

Photo By Tim Valentino

On April 8, one of the most celebrated events of the Kentucky Derby Festival will take place at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. The Fillies Derby Ball is always a marvelous evening, thanks especially to the exciting Coronation of the Queen. To learn more about this year’s event, we spoke with Fillies President Kathy Bingham, Ball Chairperson Susan Moore and Fillies Publicity Chairperson Kristen Miller.

What is the Fillies Derby Ball?

The Fillies Derby Ball is the gala kickoff to the Kentucky Derby Festival season. This long-standing black-tie ball is a Louisville tradition – this year’s iteration is the 59th Fillies Derby Ball – and serves as the largest single fundraiser for the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation.

The history of the Ball stretches back to 1959 when 17 local women formed “The Fillies Club” to help the Kentucky Derby Festival Committee produce an elegant ball, during which a Derby Court would be introduced to the community and one member would be selected as the Derby Queen. The event has seen many changes over the years, but almost six decades later, it’s still going strong – and still producing KDF royalty each and every spring!

What can guests expect at the event?

Guests can expect an evening of royal treatment filled with music, food, fun and dancing, along with the crowning of the Royal Court. Our mistress of ceremonies will be Vicki Dortch from WLKY. This year, we have a lot of surprises planned, including an artist who’ll be painting a scene of the Ball in real time, a special celebrity appearance from Monte Durham of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress,” silent and live auctions, sweet treats and musical entertainment from The Sensations.

The highlight of the Fillies Derby Ball is the Coronation of the Derby Queen, who is selected from our group of Derby Princesses by the traditional spin of the wheel. The Queen and her Court will serve as our community’s ambassadors, reigning over Derby Festival events all the way through the first Saturday in May.

In her first royal act, the Queen will honor three new Knights and Dames – individuals who have distinguished themselves through their support of our community, charitable or civic affairs or the Kentucky Derby Festival. 

Why is the event important for the Fillies and the greater community?

The Fillies Derby Ball serves as the largest annual fundraiser of the Kentucky Derby Festival Foundation (KDFF). Created in 1998, the KDFF has contributed over $1 million to local nonprofits and charities such as Metro United Way’s Success by 6, the Crusade for Children, the Derek Anderson Foundation, Music Theatre Louisville, Police Youth Activities League, Alzheimer’s Association, Every1Reads, American Red Cross and the Presbyterian Community Center. KDFF also supports artistic and scientific education for our community’s youth through underwriting events such as the Student Art Contest, the Academic Challenge and RoboRumble Robotic Tournament.

Beyond that, our Ball is the kickoff to a festival that brings our entire community together – and brings people from all over the world to see what Louisville and Southern Indiana have to offer. Anyone who loves the Kentucky Derby and the Derby Festival has to come to the Fillies Derby Ball at least once – it’s a spring tradition and the only way to kick off Derby Festival season!

How has the event grown over the years?

Adding the partnership with KDFF has made the Derby Ball even more relevant than it was when it originated as an elegant way to start off the Kentucky Derby Festival. Everyone who attends is not only participating in one of Louisville’s grandest traditions, but they are directly supporting the charitable organizations that make our community so special. Through this partnership, this event has really become Louisville’s ball – chances are, any organization close to your heart has been supported at some point by the Fillies Derby Ball through our partnership with KDFF.

How do you hope the event changes in years to come?

We look forward to watching it grow. The best way to ensure those deserving community groups get the funding they need is to make this Ball bigger and better every year, so that’s always our goal. And we are also always on the lookout for new ways to entertain our guests. We know people look forward to the Fillies Derby Ball every spring, and we never want to disappoint! But one thing will never change – by the end of that evening, some lucky young woman will leave the Ball as the official Derby Queen, and she’ll have no idea what kind of adventures are ahead of her!

Is it too late to get tickets?

This year’s Fillies Derby Ball will be Saturday, April 8, 2017, at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. The cocktail reception starts at 6:30 p.m., and the Coronation of the Queen will be at 7:30 p.m. Dinner follows at 8 p.m. followed by dancing until 1 a.m. It is NOT too late to get tickets! They are $175 each, and VIP tables are also available for $2,500. Call 502.572.3856 or go online to VT

Fillies Derby Ball

April 8

Louisville Marriott Downtown