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Kentucky festivals

More festivals means merrier times in Kentucky

When it comes to its festivals, Kentucky has a more-the-merrier attitude. Here are some annual festivals happening across the state.

From the largest to the oldest to the grandest, Kentucky knows how to put the superlative in its festivals. Here are five such events where you can hear an outstanding variety and caliber of music, browse dozens of crafts booths or flea market stalls, nosh on a wide-ranging menu of foodstuffs (sheep entrails, anyone?), or simply join the crowds and get swept up in festival fun and frolic.


Lots of family-friendly fun is part of the annual Scottsville Woman’s Club Jacksonian Festival. Photo: Scottsville Woman’s Club Jacksonian Festival

Scottsville Woman’s Club Jacksonian Festival

Named for the luxury albeit ill-fated Jacksonian Hotel, the Scottsville Woman’s Club Jacksonian Festival (Tri-County Electric’s area) was created 37 years ago in 1981 to celebrate food, fun, and history.

“What started as a small arts and crafts fair and a 5K run paying tribute to the old town hotel is a permanent part of the living history of Scottsville and Allen County,” says Rogerlynne Briddon of the Scottsville Woman’s Club and Jacksonian Festival Committee.

Now in its 37th year, the festival takes place annually on the fourth Saturday of April. Activities are planned during the week prior and culminate in a massive street fair, which features 20 to 30 musicians, a kiddie carnival, and a children’s train ride, among the entertainment.

Festival events include the Grandest Ole Opry, sponsored by the Scottsville-Allen County Chamber of Commerce and held this year on April 27 and 28; the Allen County Homemakers’ Quilt Show; the “Lighting of the Dogwoods,” sponsored by the Scottsville Garden Club; a Jacksonian Beauty Pageant; and a Cruise In spotlighting antique and classic cars.

“Additionally, the Allen County Historical Society presents a historical program,” says Briddon. “And our mayor presides over a recognition ceremony, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, naming a ‘Hometown Hero’ for contributions to our community.”

Glasgow Highland Games & Scottish Festival 

Storm the castle, soft shoe your way through a Highland dance demo, eat haggis—it’s all in a day’s fun at the Glasgow Highland Games & Scottish Festival. Held at Barren River Lake State Resort Park June 1-3 this year, (Farmers RECC’s area), this Kentucky Top 10 Festival brings it with a variety of entertainment and heart-pounding athletic events, including the battle axe competition and caber toss. For the record, a caber is a large tapered pole over 19 feet long that weighs about 175 pounds.

“For the second year, we are hosting the top 10 female Scottish athletes,” says Maureen Hendrick, who manages the festival. “Watching them toss the caber so masterfully is amazing.”

This year’s festival also welcomes internationally famous Tannahill Weaver, a band from Glasgow, Scotland, making a stop in Glasgow, Kentucky, as part of its 50th anniversary tour. Known for dynamic traditional Celtic music, the band includes piper Lorne MacDougall, who performed pipes for the Disney-Pixar movie Brave, DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2,  and the BBC’s Doctor Who. The Tannies, as the band is known, were inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame several years ago.

Also appearing will be Appalachian band Tuatha Dea. Events include the Raising of the Clans Torchlight Ceremony, the pageantry of the massed bands taking the field and a Kirkin’ of Tartan worship service.

The Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival train takes visitors to all parts of the festival. You can also ride it just for fun. Photo: Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival

Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival

When more than 60 bands descend upon a scenic 1,400 acres of Kentucky countryside near Morehead to entertain 20,000-plus fans over a five-day stretch, having a well-oiled volunteer machine is of paramount importance.

Such is the case each year for the Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival (Grayson RECC’s area) one of the world’s largest such festivals, where it takes a village of 50-plus volunteers, led by coordinator Tina Tackett, to organize the headliners on two stages—not to mention corral the 40 food and merchandise vendors that set up shop for the event.

“The music, the trails and the scenery keep visitors coming back year after year,” says Tackett.

And the music is stellar.

For the 26th annual festival, September 11-15, the lineup includes the Lonesome River Band, featuring Jesse Smathers. He is the winner of the 2017 International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Momentum Vocalist of the Year Award, while Sammy Shelor is the five-time IBMA Banjo Player of the Year and winner of the Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass.

Other bands include Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out, a group that has amassed numerous IBMA awards, including Male Vocalist of the Year honors for Moore; Whiskey Bent Valley Boys; Hogslop String Band; and the Price Sisters, known for their unique style inspired by the Father of Bluegrass himself, Bill Monroe.

Stevie Wilbern puts chicken into the world’s largest frying pan at the World Chicken Festival in London. Photo: Tim Webb

World Chicken Festival

The ingredients for the success of the World Chicken Festival may not be as carefully a guarded secret as Colonel Sanders’ 11 herbs and spices, but it is every bit as impressive.

• An 11-gauge, 700-lb stainless steel skillet mounted on a steel frame

• 300 gallons cooking oil

• 7,000 pieces chicken

• 375 lbs flour

• 75 lbs salt

• 30 lbs each pepper and paprika

• Unspecified amount of “special ingredients”

• 60 gallons natural gas

Created to honor that gent in the white suit who opened his very first KFC in Laurel County (Jackson Energy’s area), this finger lickin’ good festival is a fan fave that has been featured on the Food Network, the History Channel and KET, where the World’s Largest Skillet was used in a mathematics teaching video. It has

been chosen several times as one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 Festivals and voted as one of our “Best in Kentucky” numerous times by readers of Kentucky Living.

Set for September 27-30 in 2018, the festival features more than 25 top-notch performers on two stages. Bonus: At the Harland Sanders Café and Museum, visitors can see memorabilia from the 1940s when it all began.

Mt. Sterling October Court Days

Here is a festival that honors Kentucky’s frontier days: Mt. Sterling’s October Court Days (Clark Energy’s area) stretches back over 200 years, to 1792, and is Kentucky’s oldest festival.

Founded the same year Kentucky became a state, Mt. Sterling held “court” on the third Monday of the month. Monthly events became a time to buy, sell and trade. The October Court Day became the busiest of the year because it was the month before the long, cold winter set in when people would stock up on essentials.

Today, the free-admission festival is held annually on the third Monday in October and the weekend prior. For 2018 the dates are Friday, October 12, through Monday, October 15.

“The entire downtown area is devoted to this treasured event for four days in October,” says Tracy Pearce, Mt. Sterling tourism director.

Expect to see hundreds of vendors from all over the country, along with an enormous variety of items for buying, selling and trading. Food choices are seemingly unlimited. People, too—with as many as 200,000 attending during the festival’s run. Not bad for a town whose population typically hovers at the 7,000 mark. KL


Great American Brass Band Festival: Danville, May 31-June 3,

Beer Cheese Festival: Winchester, June 9,

Pioneer Days of Mercer County: Harrodsburg, Aug. 17-19,

Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival: Winchester, Aug. 31-Sept. 2,

Kentucky State BBQ Festival: Danville, Sept. 7-9,

Ft. Harrod Jazz & Art Festival: Harrodsburg, Sept. 14-16,

Spoonbread Festival: Berea, Sept. 21-23,

Anderson County Burgoo Festival, Lawrenceburg: Sept. 28-30,



Redbud Warm-Up Ride and Spring Fest: Barbourville, April 20-21,

Mountain Mushroom Festival: Irvine, April 28-29,

Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival: Pineville, May 24-27,

Memory Days: Grayson, May 25-27,

Poke Sallet Festival: Harlan, May 31-June 2,

Menifee Mountain Memories Festival: Frenchburg, June 1-2,

Rudy Fest Bluegrass Festival: Morehead, June 19-23,

Olive Hill Homecoming: Olive Hill, June 30-July 4,

Shriners Bluegrass Festival: Olive Hill, July 12-14,

Pioneer Life Week at Carter Caves State Resort Park: Olive Hill, July 23-29,,

Corn Festival: Stanton, Aug. 3-5,

NIBROC: Corbin, Aug. 9-11,

10th Annual Honoring our Veterans Pow Wow: Sept. 1-2, Corbin,

Elliott County Tobacco Festival: Sandy Hook, Sept. 3,

Old Fashioned Trading Days: Williamsburg, Sept. 6-8,

Cave Run Storytelling Festival: Morehead, Sept. 28-29,

Blaine Autumnfest: Blaine, Oct. ??,

Old Fashion Days: Greenup, Oct. 4-6,

Funtober Fest: Grayson, Oct. 5-6,

Black Bear Festival: Cumberland, Oct. 5-6,

Kentucky Apple Festival: Paintsville, Oct. 5-6,

Bittersweet Festival: Mt. Vernon, Oct. 5-7,

Jenny Wiley Festival: Prestonsburg, Oct. 10-13,

25th Gateway to the Cumberlands Jeep Jamboree: Williamsburg, Oct. 18-20,

Lee County Wooly Worm Festival: Beattyville, Oct. 19-21,

Grayson Hometown Holidays: Grayson, Dec. 1-2,


North Central

BBQ, Blues, and Bikes Festival: Elizabethtown, May 26,

Leitchfield Freedom and Fiddling Festival, July 21,

Cruisin’ the Heartland: Elizabethtown, July 27-28,

Kentucky Bourbon Festival: Bardstown, Sept. 12-16,

Marion County Country Ham Days: Lebanon, Sept. 28-30,



Oktoberfest, Maysville: Aug. 10-11,

MainStrasse Oktoberfest: Covington, Sept. 7-9,

Festival of the Horse: Georgetown, Sept. 7-9,

Simon Kenton Festival: Maysville, Sept. 15-16,

Pig Out: Maysville, Sept. 21-22,

Kentucky Wool Festival: Falmouth, Oct. 5-7,

Salt Festival: Big Bone Lick State Park, Union, Oct. 19-21,


South Central      

Green River Catfish Festival: Morgantown, July 4-7,

Master Musicians Festival: Somerset, July 13-14,

Nolin Fest: Edmonson County, Aug. 11,

Lake Cumberland Bluegrass Festival: Russell Springs, Aug. 17-18,

Monroe County Watermelon Festival: Tompkinsville, Sept.1,

Blazin’ Bluegrass Festival: Whitley City, Sept. 13-15,

Casey County Apple Festival: Liberty, Sept. 27-29,

Clarkson Honeyfest: Grayson County, Sept. 27-29,

Pumpkin Festival: Jackson’s Orchard in Bowling Green, Sept. 28-30 and Oct. 6-7, 13-14, 20-21 and 27-28,

Pumpkin Festival: Edmonton, Oct. 8,

Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival: Russellville, Oct. 13,

Foothills Festival: Albany, Oct. 19-20,



Tater Day: Benton, March 30-April 2,

Tri-Fest: Henderson, April 20-22,

International Bar-B-Q Festival: Owensboro, May 11-12,

Strawberry Festival: Beaver Dam, May 25-28,

W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival: Henderson, June 13-16,

ROMP Fest: Owensboro, June 27-30,

Barbecue on the River: Paducah, Sept. 27-29,

Lions Club Corn Festival: Morganfield, Sept. 27-29,

Independence Bank Sorghum Festival: Hawesville, Oct. 20-21,,





Pioneer living, frontier skills, traditions, and lifeways – all this plus Ice Age artifacts are part of the annual Salt Festival at Big Bone Lick State Park in Union.

Photo: D. Henson


Casey County Apple Festival board of directors gathers round the world’s largest apple pie, which weighs over 3,000 lbs and served free to the public.

Photo: W. Kyle Durham/ Casey County Apple Festival


The annual bee-themed Clarkson Honeyfest, begun in the early 1990s, celebrates Grayson County’s ties to the honey industry.

Photo: Clarkson Honeyfest


Pioneer Life Week at Carter Caves State Resort Park is a full week dedicated to the Revolutionary War, The War of 1812, and the settlement of lands around the Ohio River, with re-enactors, musical entertainment, and many historical programs to bring this rich heritage back to life.

Photo: Kentucky Parks


E-town’s Cruisin’ the Heartland

Photo: Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau


E-town’s BBQ, Blues, and Bikes Festival

Photo: Elizabethtown Tourism & Convention Bureau


Part of Georgetown’s annual Festival of the Horse, a 3-day event commemorating horse heritage in the midst of Kentucky Horse Country, the Georgetown Police Department’s Formation & Inspection is beloved by attendees.

Photo: Georgetown/Scott County Tourism


Grayson Hometown Holidays knows how to put the festive into the holiday season.

Photo: Grayson Tourism & Convention Commission


Head to the Hancock County Fairgrounds for the Independence Bank Sorghum Festival and sorghum demos, quilt show, tractor show, live bands, petting zoo, and free biscuits and sorghum.

Photo: Independence Bank


The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is one of the Commonwealth’s leading community festivals, saluting and showcasing the bourbon-making process and the storied history of Kentucky’s renowned industry.

Photo: Kentucky Bourbon Festival


The family-friendly Kentucky Wool Fest, with its juried craft festival, musical entertainment, heritage demonstrations, and more promotes sheep, wool products, and the local community.

Photo: Kentucky Wool Fest


The Lake Cumberland Bluegrass Festival, held at the KOA Campground in Russell Springs, is simple, wholesome, and family friendly, but the music is hard driving traditional bluegrass that will make you want to get up and dance.

Photo: Lake Cumberland Bluegrass Festival


The Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival is a 2-week-long event ending on the 2nd Saturday in October that includes the Jesse James 5K, Craft and Flea Market, Free Concerts in the Square and the Parade.

Photo: Logan County Tobacco & Heritage Festival


The hot air balloon glow is a crowd pleaser at Marion County Country Ham Days.

Photo: Marion County Chamber of Commerce


The famous country ham breakfast is the centerpiece of Marion County Country Ham Days.

Photo: Marion County Chamber of Commerce


The Master Musicians Festival brings a variety of multicultural, multigenerational, and multiracial music to its eclectic stage each year – everything from the blues to bluegrass, Celtic to Haitian roots, rock ‘n’ roll to jazz to progressive newgrass, country, and Americana, and everything in between.

Photo: Master Musicians Festival


Smoke from hickory-stoked fires blends with the aromas of sizzling chicken, bubbling burgoo, and roasting mutton . . . it must be the International Bar-B-Q Festival in Owensboro.

Photo: Visit Owensboro


Celebrating its 15th year, the four-day ROMP Festival will return to Owensboro’s Yellow Creek Park led by iconic artist, Alison Krauss; bluegrass and country music legend, Ricky Skaggs; the “Father of Newgrass” Sam Bush; and Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member, Doyle Lawson. Photo: Elliott Carter


Celebrating 21 years in 2018, the Beaver Dam Strawberry Festival will include a NASCAR Experience, Car Show & Cruise-In, Motorcycle Show, Antique Farm Tractor Show, parade, Veteran’s Memorial Recognition Service, live music and more.

Photo: City of Beaver Dam


Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band interacts with members of the audience on stage at the 2017 W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival. Traditionally, Chubby Carrier’s group performs on the night of the Red Bean and Rice Dinner fundraiser, adding zydeco flair to a lineup of blues music.

Photo: Chuck Summers Photography




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