Derby Festival Queen crowned for 2021

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Gia Combs/2021 Kentucky Derby Festival Queen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WTVQ) – With the traditional spin of a wheel Giavanna (Gia) Combs of Louisville, was named the 2021 Kentucky Derby Festival Queen Friday night at a special Coronation Ceremony at The Galt House Hotel.

The 21-year old senior psychology major at the University of Louisville is the Vice President of the Caring of New Students Experiencing College Transition (CONECT) Peer Mentoring Program, a Woodford R. Porter Scholar, and a Denny Crum Scholar.

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She is a member and the Secretary of the Beta Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.

Gia also participated in the medical companion program with the Louisville VA Medical Center, and worked with Global Game Changers Student Empowerment Program. While working 2 jobs, Gia has successfully maintained a 4.0 GPA for her senior year.

This year’s Derby Festival Princesses anxiously awaited the traditional spin-of-the-wheel, performed by Fillies President Susan Moore.

The other members of the court include: Hannah Maria Edelen of Springfield, an Honors graduate of Northern Kentucky University and currently a graduate student at UK working on her Masters in Education and Policy; Leah Hazelwood of Lebanon, a junior at the University of Louisville dual majoring in Political Science and Liberal Studies with concentrations in Race & Gender Studies, Global Public Health, and Economics; Molly Jett of Louisville, a graduate of Bellarmine University and currently an on-air reporter for WMAZ; and Hannah Robb of Louisville, a senior at Bellarmine University studying Business Administration and Marketing.

Chosen each year as ambassadors for the Kentucky Derby Festival, the Royal Court is made up of outstanding young women from around the state. This year’s court has had an historic reign since being named in 2020. Selected from a pool of more than 100 applicants, they have continued to represent the Festival in many ways and through extraordinary times.

Their reign continues through 2021, as they make multiple appearances both virtually and in-person at Festival and charity events. They’ll help share the Derby Festival spirit, as well as the importance of academics, volunteerism and community involvement.

The Princesses act as ambassadors for the Derby Festival and the city as they represent the community at a variety of functions. The Fillies, Inc. was established to support the Kentucky Derby Festival. Their mission is to organize the traditional Fillies Derby Ball as a fundraiser for the Derby Festival’s Foundation, coordinate the “Royal Court Program,” produce the “Children’s Tea” event, and publish the Official Derby Festival Program.

Past Derby Festival Queens include Martha Layne Collins – Kentucky’s first woman Governor, the late Gail Gorski – the first female pilot for United Airlines and a number of other community leaders. Many say their Derby Festival experience helped them prepare for their future careers.

2021 Kentucky Derby Festival Royal Court
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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.