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KTIA Signature Summer Events
Each quarter, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association spotlights Signature Events for the season. Following are some the Commonwealth’s prime activities for the summer.
Summer Season – May 30-Sept. 5, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville, (270) 358-3137, nps.gov/abli. The Birthplace has extended hours from 8 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. throughout the summer. The Boyhood Home Unit at Knob Creek will be open every day, and visitors can attend free Park Ranger programs. Topics include Lincoln’s Lasting Legacy, Kentucky Farm Life and A Walk on the Sinking Spring Farm. Offered daily, the Life with Little Abe Program presents a kids’ hands-on experience with animal furs, pioneer games and toys, as well as exploring items found in a Kentucky cabin.
Pottery Program – June 4, July 2 and Aug. 6, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville, (270) 358-3137, nps.gov/abli. Kids can make their own clay pots with air-drying clay like Native Americans used, while learning about history in the area. They can make coil or pinch pots, and there are paddles they can use to imprint on the pots, which they can take home.
The Works Tour and Breakfast – June 10, Kentucky Derby Museum, Churchill Downs, Louisville, derbymuseum.org. Guests meet at the Museum, and then head to the Wicker Garden for a light breakfast. Attendees return to the Museum for interactive exhibits and a 360° movie, The Greatest Race, after which they enjoy an Inside the Vault tour with the Museum’s curatorial team, focusing on Barbaro’s 10th anniversary Kentucky Derby win. Also included is admission for live racing at the track.
Kentucky’s Fort Harrod Beef Festival – June 10-11, Mercer County Fairgrounds, (859) 734-4378, fortharrodbeeffestival.org. This event showcases the Commonwealth’s beef industry. Kentucky ranks as the eighth-largest beef cattle producing state east of the Mississippi. Festival events include a progressive dinner, pageants, bourbon tasting, beef tasting (brisket, burgers, steak), live music, wine and cheese tasting, silent auction, vendors, antique car show, kids’ activities and much more.
Ice Cream & a Moovie – June 10-Sept. 17, Chaney’s Dairy Barn, Bowling Green, (270) 843-5567, www.chaneysdairybarn.com. The entire family can enjoy ice cream and a movie every other weekend on Friday and Saturday nights, June through September. Stop at the working dairy for a new family farm tour featuring Farmer Carl's robotic milkers’ system. In addition to the tour and homemade ice cream are a kids’ Jumping Pillow and playground. Movies start at dusk and are free to the public—just bring a blanket and chairs.
Beer Cheese Festival – June 11, downtown Winchester, beercheesefestival.com. Historic Main Street is transformed into Beer Cheese Boulevard for the only beer cheese festival in the world. For $5, festivalgoers can sample the beer cheeses and vote for their favorites. Additional attractions include live music, arts and crafts, a beer garden and a kids’ play area.
Stephen Foster Festival – June 11, various locations, Bardstown, 1-800-626-1563, stephenfoster.com. Celebrate a day of music, art and history. Attendees can meet cast members from The Stephen Foster Story, explore unique shops and restaurants, and learn the waltz and the polka at Wickland, and test harmonica skills during HarmonicaMania. The party culminates with the 2016 debut of The Stephen Foster Story at 8 p.m.
W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival – June 15-18, Audubon Mill Park, Henderson, handyblues.org. One of the largest free music festivals in the nation, the fest hosts variety of blues styles, including gritty delta blues, smooth soul, big horn bands, and Zydeco music. This year will include Wednesday night activities featuring Chicago-style music and food. The festival is a celebration of the life and legacy of Henderson resident and “Father of the Blues,” William Christopher Handy.
14th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion – June 16-18, Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, nhramuseum.org. More than 15,000 spectators fill the nostalgic 1950s grandstands for three days of drag racing, a Show ’n’ Shine, swap meet, vendors and Cacklefest every year. Celebrate the hot rods at the Fan Fest on Fountain Square Park the day before racing kickoff. See racers, dragsters, cool customs, rat rods, street rods, muscle cars and trucks of all kinds.
The Owsley Brown Frazier Classic – June 17, Elk Creek Hunt Club, Owenton, fraziermuseum.org. This inaugural sporting clay tournament event is expected to attract expert shooters as well as amateur enthusiasts. It features double-barrel, break-action shotguns. Awards will be given for the best overall score and for special shot competitions. Proceeds benefit Louisville’s Frazier Museum.
Old Forester Speakeasy Series – June 17, Frazier History Museum, Louisville, (502) 753-5663, fraziermuseum.org. This night of fun includes experiential circus act performances by CirqueLouis, bourbon jazz tunes by Billy Goat Strut Revue, delicious bites and craft cocktails. Guests will taste Old Forester’s special selection of bourbons, while exploring the museum exhibition about Prohibition and Kentucky.
Photographing Butterflies Program – June 18 and Aug. 13, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville, (270) 358-3137, nps.gov/abli. Join a Park Ranger for a walk around Knob Creek to discover the different butterflies found in Kentucky as well as visit picturesque spots at that part of the park. Cameras are encouraged!
Fort Harrod Settlement & Raid – June 18-19, Old Fort Harrod State Park, Harrodsburg, (859) 734-3314. This event includes battle re-enactments between pioneers and Native Americans, recalls the sieges in 1777 on the first permanent pioneer settlement in Kentucky, and presents living history demonstrations. Visitors can listen to period music, shop for handmade crafts and 18th-century items, visit pioneer and Native American camps, watch blacksmiths and gunsmiths at work and more!
Saturdays on the Square – July 2-Aug. 13, downtown Greenville, tourgreenville.com. This free summer concert series, hosted on Muhlenberg County’s beautiful courthouse veranda, will feature a four-time Grammy nominated artist, an a capella group that truly bleeds Kentucky blue, a tribute to rock ’n’ roll and Grammy Lifetime Hall of Fame Kentucky natives. Here’s the 2016 lineup:
- July 2 – A-Town A-List
- July 9 – The Downtown Band
- July 16 – The AcoUstiKats, University of Kentucky a capella group & NBC Sing-Off contestants
- July 23 – Now & Foreverly, Everly Brothers Tribute
- July 30 – 20 Ride, Zac Brown Tribute Band
- Aug. 6 – Kalimba, The Spirit of Earth, Wind & Fire
- Aug. 13 – Amy Grant
Master Artist Workshop Series – July 7-Aug. 6, Paducah School of Art & Design, Paducah, 270-408-4278, paducahschoolofartanddesign.org/master-artists-workshops/. The series features intensive workshops with nationally recognized artists and experienced workshop presenters Sunshine Cobb, Yoshi Fujii, Jill Gower, Elaine Henry and Tim Lazure. Focused on ceramics and small metals, the workshops will be hosted in recently completed, state-of-the-art visual arts education facilities in Paducah’s Lower Town Arts District.
National Corvette Homecoming & Chevy Invitational – July 14-16, Sloan Convention Center, Bowling Green, (270) 781-7973, www.corvettehomecoming.com. New for this year’s Homecoming participants and spectators is that the event is open to all makes and models of Chevrolet. Adding the Chevy component brings auto enthusiasts of all kinds to this 35th anniversary of the National Corvette Homecoming. The show also features vendors, a swap meet and a new auction event. Vette City Classic Auctions will present a muscle car auction on July 16.
Cool Critters Day – July 16, Woodlands Nature Station, Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area, Cadiz, (270) 924-2299, landbetweenthelakes.us/calendar. Get an up-close look at big bugs, beautiful birds, stupendous snakes, marvelous mammals, terrific turtles and more. Learn about all kinds of animals from the scientists and naturalists who study them. Many special guests have ongoing exhibits and programs throughout the day.
James Harrod: The Battle for Kentucky Outdoor Drama – July 7-9, 14-16, 21-23 and 28-30, Old Fort Harrod State Park, Harrodsburg, (859) 734-2389, parks.ky.gov. This action-packed play is about the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. The production features dancing and a full-scale battle scene.
Hardin County Community Fair & Horse Show – July 11-16, Hardin County Fairgrounds, Elizabethtown, hardincofair.com. Take a stroll back in time when The Fair was the annual social event. People come from all around to enjoy livestock shows, petting zoo, horse shows, truck and tractor pulls, midway rides, demolition derby and more.
Centennial Celebrations – July 16-17 and Aug. 27-28, Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park, Hodgenville, (270) 358-3137, nps.gov/abli. To commemorate its 100th anniversary, the park will host festivities that include historians portraying U.S. presidents who visited the park, as well as Abraham Lincoln himself on July 16-17. The celebration continues Aug. 27-28 with a re-enactor portraying Woodrow Wilson, who signed the Act that created the National Park Service.
Mercer County Fair & Horse Show – July 25-30, Mercer County Fairgrounds, Harrodsburg, mercerfair.com. Billed as the oldest continuous fair and horse show in the nation (since 1828), with the horse show considered one of the country’s top outdoor Saddlebred shows. The fair is filled with activities for all ages and includes a midway with carnival rides, an assortment of delicious food and challenging game booths. Highlights of the week are pageants, horse shows, motorsports and a floral hall.
Sandy Lee Watkins Songwriters Festival – July 27-30, various locations, Henderson, (270) 823-6012, sandyleesongfest.com. Attendees have the opportunity to hear popular songs performed by the original hit-making writers who created them. The fest includes intimate acoustic performances by more than 30 of Nashville’s award-winning singer/songwriters, along with new artists and songwriters.
Cruisin’ the Heartland – July 29-30, downtown Elizabethtown, cruisintheheartland.com. Crusin’ fills the streets with cars of all models, sizes and ages. Step back in time to the days of fancy paint jobs, loud souped-up V-8 engines and fuzzy dice. The fest kicks off Friday with a poker run, and gates open on Saturday to the cars on display. Take in the atmosphere of downtown, and enjoy the food and music.
St. Jerome Fancy Farm Picnic – Aug. 6, Fancy Farm, (270) 705-3460, fancyfarm.net. The annual picnic fundraiser attracts visitors from all over the world. An all-you-can-eat dinner is served throughout the day and the picnic features speeches from local, state and national politicians. It is touted as the beginning of the fall political season in Kentucky.
Bluegrass in the Park – Aug. 12-13, Audubon Mill Park, Henderson, (270) 826-3128, bluegrassinthepark.com. This festival presents two days of family fun activities, which include bluegrass music, historic folk activities, pole vaulting and great food, all with a riverfront view. A broad mix of music is expected this year.
Danchuk Tri-Five Nationals – Aug 12-13, Beech Bend Raceway, Bowling Green, www.thetrifivenationals.com. More than 2,000 are already registered to bring their 1955-57 Chevys to this monumental occasion. Downtown Bowling Green will travel back in time 60 years as these original American muscle cars line the streets of Fountain Square Park for a fan fest before hitting the pavement for drag shows and competition at the Raceway.
Kentucky State Fair – Aug. 18-28, Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, (502) 367-5000, kystatefair.org. The fair is an 11-day celebration of the history, heritage and culture of the Bluegrass State. While its roots are in agriculture, it showcases other talents and trades, acting as an educational and entertaining event.
The Kentucky Travel Industry Association names its Top Festivals & Events four times a year. To be eligible, festivals or events must be recommended or produced by a KTIA member. A panel of impartial judges selects the winners for each season. The KTIA is a 960-member association representing all sectors of the state’s travel industry. The association’s mission is to unite Kentucky’s third-largest industry through governmental interaction, communication and education.