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Kentucky Derby celebrations underway at Keeneland

Published: May. 1, 2021 at 2:53 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - The Kentucky Derby is a day the Commonwealth shines on a world stage, and the celebration isn’t just in Louisville.

“Keeneland is a place that is just so embraced by our community,” says Kara Heissenbuttel director of patron experience for Keeneland. “We’re much more than just racing in the spring of the fall, we’re kind of a destination.”

Heissenbuttel says fans are ecstatic to watch the race from the Horse Capital of the World.

Some taking on the drive-through betting.

“I’m going for the long shots,” says fan Mike Stanco. “I’m going to pick Rock your World and Super Stock.”

Others enjoying the overall fanfare.

“The hats that’s important,” says fan Misty Wood.

Still, the event’s different this year. No tailgating is allowed. Chairs can be in the saddling paddock, but without outside food or drinks. Masks are required, and tickets are not available day of.

“So many people are just used to pulling up here. Parking is free on derby day, they pay $5 dollars and come on in,” says Heissenbuttel.

Still, for many fans, it’s the first big event that hasn’t been canceled since the pandemic began. That’s bringing hope the worst is over.

“I feel like there’s more excitement this year of course with what we were going through last year and I think people are anxious to get out,” says fan Bryan Jones.

“I think it just means we’re getting back to normal,” says fan Simoen Parker.

Officials with Keeneland say tickets for the day sold out within about three weeks. They expect about 6,000 fans.

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