The weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby have always been the best time of the year to be a Louisvillian. Traditionally so much color, so many events, so much beauty with the spring season showcasing the community in its best light. Fast forward to 2020, and Louisville Metro has been crippled by a worldwide pandemic and “social justice” protests which seem have to have no endings in sight.

Saying that it has been a challenge getting excited about the 146th Run for the Roses would be an understatement.  Almost all of the Kentucky Derby Festival events have been cancelled, including Thunder Over Louisville and the Great Balloon Festival. KDF fundraising pins and Derby glasses are plentiful, along with other event paraphernalia, but few people are buying. Small wonder many local citizens have give little thought to Derby parties, with the event only four days away.

With spectators banned from Churchill Downs, there will no influx of fans to the city, few if any celebrities, and none of the traditional fundraising galas. There will no busloads of VIP visitors, no caravans from Lexington horse farms. All the corporate jets that normally occupy every available parking space at Muhammad Ali airport are not coming either. No major efforts to spruce up communities by local or state governments. Moving the Kentucky Derby to September because of a pandemic and racial unrest has robbed the event of much of its glamour and traditions.

Regardless of what Governor Andy Beshear or track officials say publicly, the possibility of violence is the major factor.

The downtown area, which had seen so much progress over the past few decades, is all boarded up, street after street, block after block. No one in a hurry to make repairs or return to offices, not with continuing protests and high virus infection rates. Two of the city’s newest hotels — the Marriott Downtown and the Louisville Omni — only recently reopening. Both of them, and others, resorting to discounted rates to attract guests on Kentucky Derby weekend.  Normally the busiest time of the year, with rates often doubling or tripling for the best hotel rooms, their occupancy rates have plummeted.

Churchill Downs is not expecting any British royalty this year, nor is anyone coming from the White House. No surprise there. The Governor is not even coming, saying its because of COVID-19. But the real reason there will be no spectators at the track is because of the threat that accompanies the continuing “social justice” chaos. Regardless of what Governor Andy Beshear or track officials say, the possibility of violence is the major factor.

One group that will be coming on Derby Day will be the Atlanta-based Black militia NFAC or “Not F**king Around Coalition.” Back in July, the group included approximately 300 heavily-armed people seeking “justice” for Breonna Taylor, a former EMT shot during a police bust on a suspected drug house in March. The NFAC syas it is seeking justice, but their verbiage and tactics suggest otherwise. It is obvious this group and others want the local populace to bow to their will, along with local and state government officials.

To the Derby gods, with so many things clouding the horizon this weekend, please understand if our genuine love for Kentucky Derby weekend is greatly tempered. The threats to our community, our traditions and our ways of life are very real this weekend.

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If the local newspaper had its way, the traditional song, “My Old Kentucky Home, would not be played prior to the parade to the post.  A letter to the editor in Wednesday’s edition from Eleanor Bingham, daughter of a former publisher, and Keith Runyon, a former writer, describes the song “as a gruesome depiction of enslaved humans being sold out of slavers’ hands” in Kentucky.

“Please let’s come to our senses and use the moment the horses parade onto the track for the running of Derby 2020 to declare a moment of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor and all Kentuckians murdered under our nation’s system of racist repression and police thuggery. Breonna Taylor was gunned down in her “Kentucky Home,” and we must all weep for her,” they write.

More confirmation that the finger-pointing style of journalism is not a recent phenomenon.

Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

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