For the first time since World War II, Louisville is not hosting the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, The 146th Run for the Roses has been postponed until September at the earliest.
But that didn’t stop people from visiting Churchill Downs Saturday morning. Outside the front entrance, beside the statue of Barbaro, runners, bicyclists and passersby stopped to take pictures and to pay their respects.
It’s the same spot where people would be waiting in line to get their Instagram shot in front of the iconic, derby-winning thoroughbred — you know, in their seersucker suits, colorful dresses, hats, fascinators, the whole thing.
“My friend Julie had a fun idea,” Kathryn Luttner said. “We usually go running on the weekends and wanted to run over by Churchill because it would have been the Derby. Just thought it would be a nice run for the roses.”
Nearby, a small group of Associated Press photographers prepared to stage their annual Derby photo.
“At the end of derby day, after all the cameras have been brought in, the remotes and everything, we all sit at the table, filthy dirty muddy, you name it. But we can’t do that this year, so we’re doing it today,” said Cindy Shelton.
To get some perspective on a day without the derby, I connected with the event’s biggest hype man: Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. He said the entire festival is a huge deal for the city both economically and civically.
“I think it builds civic pride. I think this is one of the reasons our city does so well when we have to rise to big challenges like this, or like when Muhammad Ali passed away,” Fischer said.
If nothing else, this is a day to remember how Kentucky and the rest of the country can come together. And we will come together again, hopefully in September, for the 146th Kentucky Derby.