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    21 Questions

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    Matthew Gibson, 46, is the new president and CEO of the Kentucky Derby Festival. He lives near E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park.

    Earliest childhood memory?

    “Playing cars with my identical twin brother.”


    What song is stuck in your head?

    “Garth Brooks’ version of ‘Shameless’ by Billy Joel. I belt it out at random times.”


    How’d you make your first dollar?

    “Working for my grandmother at her fishing lakes as a boy. She taught my brothers, sister, cousins and me the value of hard work.”


    Besides your current job, what’s the best job you’ve had?

    “Firefighter in Jeffersontown.”


    The most unusual benefit of your job?

    “I’ve always had an attention deficit and have been able to use that to my advantage. We put on 70-plus KDF events, so I can work on any number of projects in a day.”


    Favorite possession?

    “A necklace my late grandmother, ‘Ma,’ gave me. I feel lost if I don’t have it.”


    Favorite thing on the walls at home?

    “A dear friend gifted us full portrait prints of my two daughters, Anna Grace, 13, and Norah Kate, 6.”


    What brings you the greatest joy?

    “I have no idea what I did before I had kids, but whatever it was, it wasn’t important. They are so much fun. It’s going by too quickly.”


    What’s on your credit-card statement?

    “I’m 46 years old and have never had a credit card. Never needed one. I’m a big-time saver.”


    What should every person try once?

    “Jumping from an airplane. I’ve done it a few times solo, and one time I jumped in tandem with the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team.”


    First thing on your bucket list?

    “Swim with sharks. I have an unhealthy fear of sharks because I saw Jaws at an early — too early — age. I would love to experience what it does to my adrenaline and heart rate.”



    “Not putting negative ideas and thoughts into the universe. I try to never, ever say that things are bad — it could always get worse.”


    Favorite movie scene?

    “I always get emotional watching the opening of Saving Private Ryan. Those men were some of the bravest ever to walk this Earth.”


    If forced to get a tattoo today, what would you get?

    “A woven band of both of my daughters’ initials.”


    What do you collect?

    “Cars — a 2001.5 bright-yellow, all-wheel-drive, twin-turbo Audi S4, a 1996 Nissan Turbo 300ZX convertible, a big off-road adventure Jeep and a new Audi S-line 4, among others. I also collect frog figures. They are everywhere.”


    What triggers your “aha!” moment?

    “Getting behind the wheel, putting an audiobook in my earbuds and going for a long drive. Windows down and sunroof open or the convertible top down.”


    Best book you’ve read over the past year?

    “Brené Brown, Dare to Lead, about vulnerability, courage, leaning into work and challenges, and putting yourself out there.”


    What would you do if you won the lottery?

    “Donate a large portion to the Louisville Zoo.”


    Do you believe in ghosts?

    “Growing up, we lived in Old Louisville near St. James Court. My parents rehabbed houses, where we attributed things to apparitions. Nothing sinister. Just different souls with unfinished business.”


    What’s something you wish you had known when you were younger?

    “Should have been easier on my body. I’m paying for it at times now.”


    What’s something nobody knows about you?

    “I have a Carnegie Hero Medal for saving a man’s life in Red River Gorge.”



    Favorite album?
    “Sting, My Songs.”

    Biggest regret?
    “Not serving in the military.”

    Secret talent?
    “Good dancer and can sing.”

    Your drink?
    “Vodka-tonic with an orange slice.”

    Where do you go to be alone?
    “My garages to tinker and ‘putz.’”

    Louisville dish?
    “Firecracker chicken, Yang Kee Noodle.”

    What word do you overuse?

    Last online purchase?
    “iPad Air with Apple Pencil.”


    This originally appeared in the November 2019 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Illustration by Shae Goodlett,

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