Kip Cornett chairs the 2015 Breeders' Cup Keeneland Host Committee, a group of more than 40 people. When we last checked in with him in October of last year, planning was just getting underway to fill the week leading up to the racing in Keeneland on Oct. 30 and 31 with back-to-back major events. Here's an update:
Martin: If we were to look at your planning calendar for the week that begins on October 24th, the Saturday prior to the Breeders' Cup, what would we see?
Cornett: What you would see is a very diverse week. We have worked hard to provide entertainment and art for pretty much anybody, ranging from things that are free to things that will have a charge associated with them. You would see on October 24th that we launch with one of our bigger events called the "Feeders' Cup" — a play obviously on Breeders' Cup; a charitable event that will support God's Pantry. It's an invitational food truck competition that will be held at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. You will be able to pay one price, $20. And you'll be able to sample the food from 25 to 30 food trucks. That's something that's really never been done before in and around Lexington. We do have a food truck culture here that's growing. Other cities we're going to invite will include Cincinnati, Louisville, Nashville. The winners of the Feeders' Cup competition will be invited to spend the whole week with us in downtown Lexington and be part of the festival.
Sunday, we have a "Kentucky for Kentucky 25 Furlong" — 25 furlong translates into a 5K foot race fun run at the Horse Park. We're offering a $1,000 cash prize for the person who best dresses like a Kentuckian. That will be judged by the Kentucky for Kentucky folks. That night is the Thriller Parade, which is always huge. We will be programming free live music from 2 stages in downtown Lexington starting Sunday running all the way through Saturday. And we're also going to have a Jumbotron and multiple large TVs so people can enjoy what's going on at Keeneland: morning workouts, interviews, NBC shows all week long, as well as the actual televised races on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Martin: We're hearing about something called a "restaurant takeover." Can you tell us what that is?
Cornett: One of the benefits of the world championships coming here is there's a lot of neat activities that are going to take place that are really the responsibility and the territory of the Breeders' Cup. For example, on Thursday night, they're having an event called "Taste of The World" that is organized, and managed, and orchestrated by Bobby Flay. It's invitation-only, but we have 35 chefs that are coming to Lexington just for that event. So, we've been working in conjunction with the Breeders' Cup to take a few of those chefs and bring them here a little bit earlier and to have them stick around later. Multiple restaurants will be taken over in different parts of town by a guest chef that you may have seen on television, you may have read about, that will take over the whole restaurant with their menu. This is on Wednesday night. And then on Friday night, we're going to bring multiple chefs and we're going to do a takeover of Spindletop. We know Lexingtonians really like to eat. We have a great restaurant scene, but I think having a chance to see a menu and taste, whether it's New Orleans, New York, Chicago, or international cuisine, will be very popular.
Martin: Mayor Jim Gray says the city is "putting on its Sunday clothes" for this event. What sorts of spruce-up efforts have been underway and what among them do you think might remain after the Breeders' Cup has come and gone?
Cornett: The Urban County Council approved around $200,000 to $250,000 to make the city look good, our entryways and our downtown. The plans are very creative. It's not just about planting flowers. It's going to be something that hopefully will be a legacy for the games. Anytime that you put on a world-class event like this the question is what is that takeaway after it's gone? The Legacy Trail from the World Equestrian Games, for example. The public art display that's going on the Oliver Lewis Way Bridge is something we're going to promote heavily. We've actually stimulated funding for the Isaac Murphy Art Garden that is in need of resources to finish that project. You're going to see several different projects all over town that will be legacies of the Breeders' Cup in 2015.
Martin: Will downtown be designated a festival zone?
Cornett: Yes, it will.
Martin: What does that mean?
Cornett: If you choose an adult beverage, you'll be able to enjoy that and walk from venue to venue. We're going to make it very pedestrian friendly. We are going to be closing off several streets in downtown. We've worked very closely with restaurant and retail businesses to make sure that we're not disrupting their traffic flow, but within the festival zone, you'll be able to walk, for example from Cheapside to Courthouse Plaza without any street traffic, whatsoever, from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m. So, that gives you that festive feeling that we hope to create.
Martin: Is Red Mile involved in this?
Cornett: Very involved. The Breeders' Cup essentially sold out in a week. So, we've talked about the secondary experience that will be at the Red Mile. At that time, the Red Mile will have been reopened for a little over 60 days with new parking lots, new concession areas. It's a $40 million reimagining, not just a renovation. On Friday and Saturday there will be a very low price point that will allow people to come and watch and wager on the races, do everything but see a live horse.
Martin: What has been your biggest challenge in putting all this together?
Cornett: The challenge is that little devil that sits on your shoulder and says, "Remember, it's about execution, execution, execution." We want to put our best foot forward because we want to win this thing back. We want to be part of a regular rotation like there are with Final Fours because the economic impact — every hotel room pretty much is gone from Wednesday to Saturday. The restaurants, you know, they understand what's about to happen. So, it's important that we do execute to the level of expectations of the Breeders' Cup so that they'll come back here.