Episode 205. Mike Berry – Past President and CEO, The Kentucky Derby Festival (1997-2019)
For 20 years, Mike Berry was at the helm of the Kentucky Derby Festival (KDF), one of the nation’s largest and most notable civic celebrations.
The festival spans the two weeks leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Mike oversaw the planning and production of nearly 70 events on the official schedule. The festival attracts an estimated 1.5 million people to the area each year.
Mike built his career at the festival and was the longest-serving president and CEO in the organization’s history. He began his KDF career in 1986 as an event coordinator. He rose to director of marketing and communications and vice president/managing director before his position as president and CEO
His first involvement with the festival came as administrative assistant to then Kentucky governor, Martha Layne Collins. Mike served as the governor’s appointment to the Derby Festival board from 1984-86. Mike coordinated special projects during his Frankfort tenure, including the Kentucky Derby Breakfast, Governor’s Prayer Breakfast, 75th Anniversary of the State Capitol, and the Bluegrass State Games. He also led social events for the 1984 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco.
Mike serves or has served on the boards of many organizations, including chairman of the International Festivals & Events Association, IFEA Foundation (also named to the Hall of Fame), and Music Theatre of Louisville’s StageOne Family Theatre in 2011 (also a Lifetime Honorary Board Member). He also served as secretary for the Louisville Theatrical Association and commissioner for the Greater Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Mike and his partner, Bill, reside in Louisville. They have two sons and five grandchildren. In 2019, Mike retired from the Kentucky Derby Festival after 33 years.