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Louisville’s Hometown Heroes then and now

It started in 2002 with Muhammad Ali — next year, Jack Harlow will join the crew.

LOUtoday: Hometown Heroes banner Muhammad Ali

To celebrate 20 years of Hometown Heroes, the Muhammad Ali banner was reinstalled in June.

Photo courtesy of the Louisville Downtown Partnership

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Every Louisvillian has seen a jumbo version of another Louisvillian somewhere on a building throughout the city.

Jennifer Lawrence serving looks over I-64 and Harold “Pee Wee” Reese smiling on Main Street are just two of the Hometown Heroes celebrated in Derby City via giant photographic banners.

Currently, there are 31 vinyl banners some as tall as 60 feet — honoring influential Louisville natives. Next year, six new people will grace Derby City as part of the Hometown Heroes relaunch.

The beginning

It started in 2002 with “the greatest of all time” — Muhammad Ali. Installing a giant photo of the legendary boxer was the sole project of the nonprofit Greater Louisville Pride Foundation (GLPF), but the program quickly expanded to recognize other famous people who have inspired others or represented Louisville to the rest of the world.

Hometown Heroes 2.0

In June 2022, the program celebrated its 20th anniversary with a reinstallation of the Muhammad Ali banner on the LG&E building at Third Street and River Road. GLPF also announced the re-launch of the program after laying dormant for five years.

The new Hometown Heroes promises to explore more sustainable and cost effective banners that can be easily updated. Organizers will also replace and remove faded banners to make space for new ones.

Class of 2023

In November, Hometown Heroes announced six new faces joining the banner crew in 2023. Here’s who is on the list:

  • John Asher | Known as the “Ambassador of the Kentucky Derby,” John was the vice president of communications at Churchill Downs from 1999 to 2018. .
  • Jack Harlow | Jack is the current face of Louisville thanks to his successful rap career, but he’s also made sizable contributions to local organizations like AMPED and the Center for Women and Families.
  • Lionel Hampton | This internationally famous jazz musician worked with other iconic artists like Charlie Parker and Buddy Rich.
  • Justin Thomas | He was ranked the No. 1 golfer in the world in 2018.
  • Wes Unseld | Wes was the No. 2 overall pick of the 1968 NBA Draft, earned MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1988.
  • David Jones Sr. | David co-founded Humana, which became the largest US hospital company during his tenure.

Bonus: Watch how the giant banners are printed and hung.

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