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Louisville is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky, and the county seat of Jefferson County. Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's population at the 2010 census was 741,096. An important internal shipping port in the 19th century, Louisville today is best known as the location of the Kentucky Derby, the first of three annual thoroughbred horse races making up the Triple Crown.

Culture

Annual festivals and other events

Louisville is home to a number of annual cultural events. Perhaps most well-known is the Kentucky Derby, held annually during the first Saturday of May. The Derby is preceded by a two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival, which starts with the annual Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in the nation. The Kentucky Derby Festival also features notable events such as the Pegasus Parade, The Great Steamboat Race, Great Balloon Race, a marathon, and about seventy events in total. Esquire magazine has called the Kentucky Derby "the biggest party in the south."

Usually beginning in late February or early March is the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, an internationally acclaimed new-play festival that lasts approximately six weeks.

On Memorial Day weekend, Louisville hosts the largest annual Beatles Festival in the world, Abbey Road on the River. The festival lasts five days and is located on the Belvedere in downtown Louisville.

The summer season in Louisville also features a series of cultural events such as the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (commonly called Shakespeare in the Park), held in July of every year and features free Shakespeare plays in Central Park in Old Louisville. June sees the relatively new addition of Louisville Pride festivities, including an annually growing and media-covered gay-pride parade through the streets of downtown Louisville and picnic at the Belvedere. Lebowski Fest was first held in Louisville in 2002 and continues every year in July, to commemorate the noir-esque film The Big Lebowski. The Kentucky State Fair is held every August at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville as well, featuring an array of culture from all areas of Kentucky. In places, the African American community celebrates Juneteenth commemorating June 19, 1865, when slaves in the western territories learned of their freedom.[64][65][66]

Since 2007, Louisville has been host to the annual Ironman Louisville triathlon in August, one of only eight Ironman events in North America. In 2009, 2352 participants finished the course.

In September is the Bluegrass Balloon Festival, the fifth largest hot air balloon festival in the nation. The festival features early morning balloon races, as well as balloon glows in the evening. In September, in nearby Bardstown, is the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which features some of the finest bourbon in the world. The suburb of Jeffersontown is also the home of the annual Gaslight Festival, a series of events spread over a week. Attendance is approximately 200,000 for the week.

The month of October features the St. James Court Art Show in Old Louisville. Thousands of artists gather on the streets and in the courtyard to exhibit and sell their wares, and the event is attended by many art collectors and enthusiasts. The show is the second most-attended event next to the Derby.

Another art-related event that occurs every month is the First Friday Trolley Hop. A TARC trolley takes art lovers to many downtown area (especially East Market District, or "NuLu") independent art galleries on the first Friday of every month.

Indie scene

A Louisville locale that highlights this scene is Bardstown Road, an area located in the heart of the Highlands. Bardstown Road is known for its cultural diversity and local trade. The majority of the businesses along Bardstown Road, such as coffee shops, clothing stores and art galleries, are locally owned and operated businesses. Though it is only about one mile (1.6 km) long, this strip of Bardstown Road constitutes much of the city's culture and diverse lifestyle. Just a few blocks down the road is ear X-tacy, a local record store that has been a fixture in the Louisville music scene for many years.

In downtown Louisville, 21c Museum Hotel, a hotel that showcases contemporary art installations and exhibitions throughout its public spaces, and features a red penguin on its roof, is, according to The New York Times, "an innovative concept with strong execution and prompt and enthusiastic service."

Louisville is home to a thriving indie music scene with bands such as the widely known Love Jones, Flaw, Slint, My Morning Jacket, VHS or Beta and The Villebillies. It is also home to the post-grunge band Days of the New. This scene reaches a crescendo every July during the Forecastle Festival, a three-day music, art, and environmental activism festival taking place at the Belvedere.

Also catering to the musical ear within the community is 91.9 WFPK Radio Louisville, a local public radio station funded from local listeners, featuring local, national, and international musicians. The station also hosts summer concerts on the waterfront from April until July. Up-and-coming alternative artists are brought to stage in order to enhance the community both culturally and musically.

Museums, galleries, and interpretive centers

The West Main District in downtown Louisville features what is locally known as "Museum Row". In this area, the Frazier International History Museum, which opened in 2004, features a collection of arms, armor and related historical artifacts spanning 1,000 years, concentrating on U.S. and UK arms. The building features three stories of exhibits, two reenactment arenas, a 120-seat auditorium, and a 48-seat movie theater. Also nearby is the Louisville Science Center, which is Kentucky's largest hands-on science center and features interactive exhibits, IMAX films, educational programs and technology networks. The Muhammad Ali Center opened November 2005 in "Museum Row" and features Louisville native Muhammad Ali's boxing memorabilia.

The Speed Art Museum opened in 1927 and is the oldest and largest art museum in the state of Kentucky. Located adjacent to the University of Louisville, the museum features over 12,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection and hosts regular temporary exhibitions. Multiple art galleries are located in the city, but they are especially concentrated in the East Market District of downtown. This row of galleries, plus others in the West Main District, are prominently featured in the monthly First Friday Trolley Hop.

Several local history museums can be found in the Louisville area. The most prominent among them is The Filson Historical Society, founded in 1884, which has holdings exceeding 1.5 million manuscript items and over 50,000 volumes in the library. The Filson's extensive collections focus on Kentucky, the Upper South, and the Ohio River Valley, and contain a large collection of portraiture and over 10,000 museum artifacts. Other local history museums include the Portland Museum, Historic Locust Grove, Conrad-Caldwell House Museum, the Falls of the Ohio State Park interpretive center (Clarksville, Indiana), Howard Steamboat Museum (Jeffersonville, Indiana) and the Carnegie Center for Art and History (New Albany, Indiana). The Falls interpretive center, part of the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area, also functions as a natural history museum, covering findings in the nearby exposed Devonian fossil bed.

There are also several historical properties and items of interest in the area, including the Belle of Louisville, the oldest Mississippi-style steamboat in operation in the United States. The United States Marine Hospital of Louisville is considered the best remaining antebellum hospital in the United States. It was designed by Robert Mills, who is best known as the designer of the Washington Monument. Fort Knox, spread out among Bullitt, Hardin and Meade Counties (two of which are in the Louisville metropolitan area), is home to the U.S. Bullion Depository and the General George Patton Museum. The previously mentioned Locust Grove, former home of Louisville Founder George Rogers Clark, portrays life in the early days of the city. Other notable properties include the Farmington Historic Plantation (home of the famous Speed family), Riverside, The Farnsley-Moremen Landing, and the restored Union Station, which was opened on September 7, 1891. The Louisville area is also home to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, a turn-of-the-century (20th) hospital that was originally built to accommodate tuberculosis patients, and subsequently has been reported and sensationalized to be haunted.

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