Five Festival Events Around Louisville Hosted by Equestricon on Breeders’ Cup Week
Since its inauguration last year in Saratoga, Equestricon has stamped itself as a one-of-a-kind event in the horse racing world. From bringing some of racing’s biggest names together in a fan-oriented environment to showcasing some of the sport’s most important organizations, the two-day event that kicks off Breeders’ Cup week is unlike anything else the sport has to offer. Naturally, the Equestricon festival has a lot of appeal to fans of horses and horse racing, but you don’t have to be a racing fanatic to enjoy many of the festival events.
Whether it’s racing fashion, a taste of Kentucky’s finest bourbon, or concerts featuring some of the brightest stars in modern pop, Equestricon has it all. Though the racing-centered festival has events like these going on all throughout the week before the Breeders’ Cup, there are a few that might catch the eye of even the most seasoned Kentucky natives.
Fashion at the Races Brunch
Anyone who has been to the Kentucky Derby knows that the horses are only one of the main attractions. During the red carpet event at each year’s Derby, celebrities dressed in the latest fashion parade down the carpet, showing off their stunning attire. The first event that sets the stage for the week’s Equestricon festival is a fashion-forward brunch on Sunday, October 28, at the Louisville Marriott Downtown (the official hotel of Equestricon and the Breeders’ Cup).
The brunch will be hosted by Bri Mott of Fashion at the Races. Guests will enjoy a full-buffet brunch, mimosas, a fashion show and pop-up shopping with local clothing vendors and milliners. All guests will also also receive an exclusive gift bag.
Equestricon Kickoff Sunday Night at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen (FREE EVENT)
Signifying the official start of festival is the Equestricon Kickoff at Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen later on Sunday night. Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, at 122 West Main Street, has been a popular Louisville establishment since founder Tony Palombino opened its doors in late 2012. Since then, it has garnered national praise, which culminated when Merle’s was recently named one of America’s Best Bourbon Bars by GoBourbon.com.
With the convention being held directly across from the Louisville Marriott Downtown and the majority of Equestricon guests staying there, there are benefits that patrons receive for being Marriott guests. Anyone who shows up at Merle’s with their Marriott key or an Equestricon ticket will receive discounted drinks and free appetizers
Concert and VIP Party at the Mercury Ballroom
While high fashion and some of Kentucky’s finest bourbon are certainly highlights of Equestricon, the trifecta is completed in Tuesday’s concert hosted at the Mercury Ballroom in downtown Louisville. Headlining the show will be Jukebox the Ghost, a band with a growing cult following and a lead singer, Ben Thornewill, who spent his entire childhood in the Louisville area.
“I don’t think you can grow up in Louisville and not feel some connection to horse racing and Churchill Downs,” Thornewill said about headlining the Equestricon concert in his hometown. “Going to Thunder Over Louisville and Derby Parties…[is] always such an exciting time of year. So not only does Louisville feel special to me, but this is our first time playing in the Mercury Ballroom.”
Fans can expect Jukebox the Ghost to play a mix of songs from across their catalog, as well as songs from latest record, appropriately entitled, Off to the Races.
“It's a lyric from the first song on the record,” said Thornewill, “and of course we knew we wanted to put a horse on the cover of the album.”
Equestricon patrons who have VIP and Festival Insider Passes will get access to the second floor VIP section of the Mercury Ballroom for the concert, while general admission tickets are standing room only on the first floor.
Mimosas and Millinery Fascinator Workshop
Continuing the theme of high fashion throughout festival week is the Mimosas and Millinery Fascinator Workshop, hosted by San Diego-based milliner Diana Cavagnaro. Guests will be invited to craft their own unique fascinator similar to those sported at races like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup, all while enjoying good company. Oh, and did we mention free mimosas?
“[The workshop] will include all supplies needed to make your very own fascinator for the Breeders’ Cup along with champagne to enliven your spirits,” Cavagnaro said.
The Mimosas and Millinery Workshop is a small, intimate and exclusive event with just 25 tickets available. The smaller setting will allow for more direct, one-on-one attention during the fascinator-making process.
“The most important thing in creating a fascinator is to remember to not just look at the front. Remember that people will look at all four sides of the fascinator when you are wearing it, so it is important to pay attention to this while designing,” Cavagnaro said, previewing some of what she’ll share during the workshop.
She hopes that by coming to Equestricon, she can impart her love for millinery on patrons while bringing her unique view on the world of crafting fascinators to the Bluegrass.
Equestricon at the Track at Churchill Downs
Rounding out “off-site festivities” (referring to events that won’t be held inside the main convention hub at the Kentucky International Convention Center on Monday and Tuesday, October 29 and 30) is the “Equestricon at the Track at Churchill Downs” experience. Equestricon guests have the option to enjoy a classic Kentucky day of fall racing in a private room at Churchill Downs, with the company and handicapping assistance of guest handicappers. Not only will attendees get to mingle with handicappers to discuss strategy and all things betting, they will also enjoy a Chef’s Table buffet lunch, free soft drinks, a complimentary program, and official limited-edition Equestricon merchandise. Alcoholic beverages will be available to patrons over 21, at an additional charge.
While post time for Wednesday is set for 1:00PM, gates open at 11:30AM for guests looking to explore the historic racetrack on their own. Also available for a separate cost will be the Kentucky Derby Museum, where guests can get their picture taken in a life-size model starting gate or race their friends on the virtual horse race while trying to maintain a jockey’s position for the entirety of the race. 30-minute guided tours of the racetrack go off at every half-hour that the museum is open, except for the days of the Breeders’ Cup. Entry to the museum is $15 for adults and is not included in the Equestricon package.
For those looking for an even bigger behind-the-scenes look, Churchill Downs will open its gates from 6:30AM to 8:30AM that morning. This will enable people to catch a glimpse at some of the Breeders’ Cup contenders working out before their respective races while possibly encountering notable names from the racing world. Admittance to the early-morning workouts will be free, and guests will be able to take photos at will during the two hours the track will be open to the public.