As tourists return to Louisville for horse racing, neighbors are thrilled with the return of a cash cow

Just outside the gates of Churchill Downs, Nick and Jared Taylor wave their arms to lure drivers into their yard on Wizard Avenue. They discuss lazily which horses they are going to bet on, interrupting their speculations only to shout “Place to park!” to passing cars.

Nick said their family had been selling these pitches in the backyard of an apartment building since the early 1970s, when they walked away for just 50 cents. Now they are a bit more expensive.

“We’re building off of what we’ve done over the last two years,” Nick Taylor said of his awards. “Normally on a Tuesday or Wednesday we’ll park for $10 or $20, but if it’s busy and we can get $50, there’s no reason not to.”

For the neighborhoods surrounding Churchill Downs, the Kentucky Derby is more than just a horse race, it’s an opportunity to make money. Many locals sell parking spots or food and drink in their yard. This year, with the runway opening at full capacity for the first time since the pandemic began, neighbors hope to see tourists return with cash to spend.

Stephanie McDaniel-Finch on Rodman Street said she hopes to sell around 100 parking spaces across two lots each day. She looks forward to the return of the crowds – and the cars they will bring with them.

“It’s been kinda dead and quiet the last two years, and I’m just ready to go back to my normal people who come from out of town and stop and see me and sit down and chat and catch up with their delay lives a bit,” McDaniel-Finch said.

She said, all things considered, she could make a few thousand dollars. But unfortunately, most have already been announced.

“Because we have to pay taxes here on this property,” she explained. “It’s a good piece [of change] if you could keep it all, but given that you have bills, car insurance, taxes and everything else, you could end up with about a thousand for yourself.

Several people on her street said the extra money helped them avoid property tax liens. They claim these penalties – which could lead to foreclosure if not paid – are a “sneaky” way for the government and Churchill Downs to take their property for a bargain price.

The racetrack neighbors aren’t just selling parking. William Weaver spent most of Wednesday morning gathering supplies for a hot dog stand he will operate in a gas station parking lot. He named it “Little Diggities No Doubt”.

“I have hot dogs, I have smoked sausages, I have hot links, sautéed onions, special sauces, bacon, fresh vegetables, everything – [it’s] great Derby appetizer,” Weaver said.

He said 2019 was his first year selling food at the station. Even with a few self-proclaimed rookie mistakes, he made thousands of dollars. So this year, with a little more experience – and hopefully with the weather – he hopes to do even better.

“There will definitely be a lot of people this year, just because everyone wants to come back outside,” Weaver said. “We had to sit in the house for two years. So it’s the first year that everyone can come back and I’m also coming outside with them.