Louisville’s Sidewalk Derby

Kentucky is Horse Country USA and Louisville is home to the famous Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.  But Louisville is home to another equine derby, locally known as the Sidewalk Derby.

In 2009, the Gallopalooza Showcase auctioned a herd of 132 artistic horses to local businesses and individuals.   These beautifully crafted sculptures can be spotted throughout the city and suburbs.

Gallopalooza is organized every five years.  Just two more years before the next stampede of colorful horses arrives in Louisville.

This amazing celebration of our community, artistically underscores this state’s obsession with horses and racing.

My kids love to play “spot a painted horse” as we drive around town.  Keeping their eyes peeled for spectacularly painted horse statues, provides wonderful free entertainment, that sure beats watching TV.  Since we don’t own a mobile DVD system, we create our own fun-on-the-go.

Each horse is unique and tells a story.  Muhammad Ali, Louisville’s favorite son, is proudly represented on this sculpture alongside the Stars and Stripes.

Thoroughblue rests peacefully on the Main Street sidewalk.

This guy with his checkered flag tale stands proudly outside a local car dealership.

Our medical/dental horse sports a stethoscope, a toothbrush leg and braces to fix his toothy horse smile.

This guy is perfect for playing “name that state”.

This sculpture represents a horse chess piece.  Louisville’s blue bejeweled beauty proudly guards a door on Main Street.

We spotted this guy overlooking some tables outside a restaurant on Market Street.

This stripey spectacle stands in front of a local paint store.  The blanket image on his back replicates a sample paint strip.

This high stepping pose reflects the dancing movements of a show horse.   My kids love this horse.  If you look closely at his tail, you’ll see a little red cardinal perched comfortably, observing the world go by.  He’s part of the sculpture, but my little girl was convinced he was real.

And finally the winner of my “Run for the Roses”, as the Derby is affectionately referred to.  In 1896 the Derby winner was first presented with a cloak of pink and white roses, a tradition proudly upheld each year since.

While driving yesterday we spied this brown filly sporting her beautiful rose garland.  She is not an official Gallopalooza horse, but here in Louisville we love all of our horses, especially those adorned with a garland of roses.

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)

Irish American Mom


  1. Love these horses! We have been to different cities where they have had animal sculptures painted like these. Our West Texas town has giant jackrabbits all over town painted in various ways-interesting! I enjoy reading your blog and hope my husband and I can visit Ireland some day.

    • We love these horses too, Jan. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and I hope you and your husband make it to Ireland someday. It is even more beautiful in reality – photos just never capture how spectacular some of the scenery is. Best wishes!

  2. Mairead, thanks for sharing a taste of Kentucky in your last few posts. How neat to have the painted horses around town. Especially loved the one with the roses around its neck. Classic and beautiful!

  3. Those horses are spectacular. I loved them. It looks like it would be great fun and quite interesting to go see them.

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