Episode 205. Mike Berry – President and CEO, The Kentucky Derby Festival
For 20 years, Mike Berry has been 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. Berry oversees 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.
Berry built his career at the festival and is now the longest-serving president and CEO in the history of the organization. He began his KDF career in 1986 as an event coordinator. He rose to director of marketing and communications and vice president/managing director prior to his current position as president and CEO
His first involvement with the festival came as administrative assistant to then Kentucky governor, Martha Layne Collins. Berry served as the governor’s appointment to the Derby Festival board from 1984-86. During his Frankfort tenure, Berry coordinated special projects 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.
Berry 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.
Berry and his partner, Bill, reside in Louisville. They have two sons and five grandchildren.