For that lull in activity in New Orleans between Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest, a new event will debut next year. The Fair Grounds will be opening up the infield to mark the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Derby.
Fair Grounds President Tim Bryant says the festival has been in the planning stages for the past year.
“One of the main questions was how would we get people into the infield without damaging our racing surfaces," Bryant said. "We researched several methods used at other racetracks, and I’m happy to say that we’ve been able to borrow the very same pedestrian bridges used at Pimlico racecourse in Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes.”
Race-goers can have access to the infield between races on Derby Day. A large array of food trucks will be stocked to feed the crowd, which will be entertained that evening by the New Orleans band Cowboy Mouth. Organizers say they’ve worked out arrangements with the Crescent City Classic 10-K run also being held that day in nearby City Park. The runners will start a little early, and the horses will run a little later.
Fair Grounds General Manager Eric Halstrom is expecting up to 8,000 people at the Infield Festival. And he says it’s important for New Orleans to recognize the history of the Derby itself.
“When you look at it nationally, there’s very few races that have been around this long," Halstrom said. "It’s grown into a million-dollar race. The winner goes to the Kentucky Derby, and people around the country will be watching very closely.”
The Louisiana Derby Infield Festival will be held March 30. Then Jazz Fest will begin setting up.