Top 30 Festivals In Kentucky, USA

festivals in kentucky
| 13 min read

Cradled by the magnificent Ohio River in the north and the majestic Appalachian Mountains in the east, Kentucky offers ample fertile views. Overflowing with rich character, time-honored events, mouthwatering culinary traditions, and distinctive musical history, Kentucky makes you sigh with delight. Nicknamed The Bluegrass State because the majority of its manicured lawns and green pastures consist of a species of grass called bluegrass, Kentucky boasts a unique identity that shows through in the many festivals held throughout the state. From high-profile events like The Kentucky Derby to lesser-known gatherings, this state provides an inviting atmosphere that goes beyond the usual tourist sites. To get in on the fun you must read on to find the top festivals in Kentucky, USA.

1. Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event

R3DE StadiumJump
Source: Photo by user Ronjamin used under CC BY 2.5

An ultimate equestrian event, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event is the place for horse-loving individuals. Watch an array of skillful competitions from exciting show jumping to impressive dressage to compelling cross-country events. This event attracts over 100,000 attendees from around the globe and distinguished riders compete for top-notch honors. Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event also provides a massive trade fair equipped with everything from horse-riding related items like expertly manufactured saddles and snazzy boot wear to pretty designer clothing and artwork.

Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event

Address: Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511, United States

Website: Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event

Takes place: April to May

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2. Kentucky State Fair

KY State Fair, 2012
Source: Photo by user Jason Meredith used under CC BY 2.0

Almost everything you could dream of to entertain the family can be found at the Kentucky State Fair. Hosting more than 600,000 visitors each year, this fair is central to Kentucky’s event calendar. Test your nerve on fun carnival rides. Chow down on a wide array of delectable foods. Dance to music performed by top headliners. This fair even features mesmerizing Cirque de Soleil-style entertainment complete with supreme bicycle stunt riders, death-defying acrobats, and jaw-dropping illusionists. Whether you want to sip a frothy brew or purchase a finely knitted quilt chances are it’s at the Kentucky State Fair.

Kentucky State Fair

Address: 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209

Website: Kentucky State Fair

Takes place: August

Price: 10 USD

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3. Garvin Gate Blues Festival

Situated in the charming Old Louisville neighborhood of the city - the biggest maintained Victorian-era section in the country - is the splendid Garvin Gate Blues Festival. Conducted over a gleeful two-day period, this autumn classic held annually offers a stellar line-up of legendary bluesy bands and musical artists from homegrown talent to national performers. When there’s a break in the music check out the over 50 fantastic artisan and craft booths filled with delightful merchandise. Also on hand is a great selection of tasty food and refreshing drinks.

Garvin Gate Blues Festival

Address: 500 W Oak St, Louisville, KY 40203

Website: Garvin Gate Blues Festival

Takes place: October

Price: Free entry

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4. Louisville Greek Festival

Flowing with plenty of infectious Hellenic pride is the Louisville Greek Festival. Situated on the lovely grounds of the Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, this summertime festival is filled to the brim with animated folk dancing, brightly costumed people in traditional Greek wear, and lively bouzouki bands. And what is a Greek festival without hearty amounts of delicious authentic Greek cuisine? Devour sweet baklava, tender souvlaki, and yummy gyros. This festival also offers kids’ activities, wonderful church tours, and informative baklava workshops. You’ll easily be shouting Opa! all day long.

Louisville Greek Festival

Address: 930 Ormsby Lane, Louisville, KY 40242

Website: Louisville Greek Festival

Takes place: Usually held in June

Price: Free entry

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5. American Quilter’s Society National Quilt Show

Posted by American Quilter's Society on Friday, 13 September 2019

If you’re a quilting hobbyist you’ll want to head to the American Quilter’s Society National Quilt Show. Located in the quaint town of Paducah - which happens to be the go-to spot for quilters and quilting fans - this show lets guests browse an astonishing number of impeccably made and colorful quilts on display. Some of these quilts are the most creative you’ll ever see! You can also shop for fine fabrics, sewing machines, and quilting supplies. For knitting advice, turn to the world-class quilting professionals on hand. This show also features a judging competition to name the quilter with the finest workmanship and most inventive design.

American Quilter’s Society National Quilt Show

Address: Paducah, KY

Website: American Quilter’s Society National Quilt Show

Takes place: April

Price: 14 USD onwards

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6. Kentucky Book Festival

The Kentucky Book Festival is a book lover’s dream. Dedicated to the art of writing, this book festival presents a legion of accomplished regional and national authors eager to talk about their latest works. Engrossing panel discussions and compelling author presentations take place on two stages throughout the event. If you want to converse with your favorite writer this festival affords the chance for authors and readers to meet directly and create a meaningful experience for both parties. Also, this event raises much-needed money for public schools and libraries through the sale of the festival’s presentation of books.

Kentucky Book Festival

Address: Lexington, KY

Website: Kentucky Book Festival

Takes place: November

Price: Free entry

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7. Louder Than Life Festival

Posted by Louder Than Life on Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Hosted on the expansive Highland Festival Grounds at the Kentucky Exposition Center, Louder Than Life Festival is a monster-sized event for heavy-metal diehards and hard-driving rockers. Running a total of three days, this festival is the ultimate paradise for those that like their music loud and intense. Hear top music artists of the genre like Guns N’ Roses, Rob Zombie, and Slipknot. When you need a refreshment stroll over to the uniquely designed Tree Bar - a bar constructed around a large shade tree near the two performance stages - and savor your favorite specialty cocktail.

Louder Than Life Festival

Address: Louisville, KY

Website: Louder Than Life Festival

Takes place: September

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8. Christmas Parade

Beginning in 1936, the Christmas Parade has been the kick-off event of the Christmas holiday season for the town of Owensboro. Large crowds of about 25,000 locals and visitors gather in the charming downtown area to watch the upbeat parade that boasts vehicles strewn with brightly colored lights, wildly decorated floats, and high-energy marching bands. Along the parade route, thousands of spectators particularly children line the streets to not only enjoy the parade celebration but to greet Saint Nick in his initial appearance of the season.

Christmas Parade

Address: Owensboro, KY

Website: Christmas Parade

Takes place: November

Price: Free entry

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9. The Kentucky Derby and Derby Festival

Louisville Kentucky Derby
Source: Photo by user Velo Steve used under CC BY-SA 2.0

The standout as far as festivals go The Kentucky Derby and Derby Festival is one of the events synonymous with Kentucky. For two weeks leading up to the premier annual horse race, The Derby Festival supplies visitors with loads of festive fun by kicking things off with a spectacular firework show that’s followed by 70 special and memorable events that include fine musical concerts. There are also attention-grabbing events like the fabulous Great Steamboat Race - a race down the mighty Ohio River between prominent paddleboats Belle of Louisville and the Belle of Cincinnati! You’ll certainly want to revel in all the hoopla these momentous events have to offer.

The Kentucky Derby and Derby Festival

Address: Louisville, KY

Website: The Kentucky Derby and Derby Festival

Takes place: Usually held March to May

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10. Trail of Tears Pow-Wow

Posted by Trail of Tears PowWow on Sunday, 8 September 2019

A crowd-pleasing event for 25 years, the Trail of Tears Pow-Wow is an intriguing festival that offers the chance for Native Americans to celebrate their rich history and for non-Native Americans to learn about the heritage and culture of the country’s first residents. Displaying fascinating dancing, drumming, and singing, be captivated by this one-of-a-kind entertainment that welcomes over 16,000 guests each year. This event attracts both national and international travelers and it a nice way to spend an easygoing afternoon.

Trail of Tears Pow-Wow

Address: Hopkinsville, KY

Website: Trail of Tears Pow-Wow

Takes place: September

Price: 10 USD onwards

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11. Festival of Trees and Lights

The Festival of Trees & Lights @ Louisville's Slugger Field  (part 2)
Source: Photo by user LuAnn Snawder Pho... used under CC BY-ND 2.0

Held at the fabulous baseball stadium Louisville Slugger Field, the Festival of Trees and Lights is a wonderful event for an even greater cause. Over three days, attendees can admire eye-catching holiday decor from gorgeously decorated trees to fantastic wreaths and more all for the benefit of the local area’s Norton Children’s Hospital. The little ones can have photos taken with Santa Claus, be awestruck by an exciting fireworks display, and gulp down free hot chocolate or warm cider! Carousel rides, a trip to Elf Town, and train rides are available to enjoy for an additional charge.

Festival Of Trees and Lights

Address: 401 E Main St, Louisville, KY 40202

Website: Festival Of Trees and Lights

Takes place: November

Price: 6 - 9 USD

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12. Duncan Hines Festival [Last event in 2019]

festivals in kentucky | duncan hines festival [last event in 2019]
Source: instagram

Surrounded by a peaceful environment of idyllic countryside and well-fed Jersey cows, the Duncan Hines Festival is a winner with fun-seeking families. This festival honors the local Kentucky resident who founded the Duncan Hines brand. To commemorate the event guests can have loads of fun with a classic Uncle Duncan’s Duck Derby competition and a delicious brownie-eating contest. Children can bounce around on fun inflatables, get their face painted, and enjoy plenty of other kid-friendly activities. Top vendors are on hand to provide great eats and fine refreshments.

Duncan Hines Festival

Address: 9191 Nashville Road Bowling Green, KY 42101

Website: Duncan Hines Festival

Takes place: July

Price: Free entry

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13. International Bar-B-Q Festival

Source: Photo by user Afreeman used under CC BY 3.0

Taking barbecue to another level is the International Bar-B-Q Festival. Get a whiff of aromatic scents from secret-sauce recipes simmering in giant pots and juicy meats like beef, pork, lamb, and chicken grilling on hickory-fuelled flames as you approach this beloved and mouthwatering food festival. This fun-loving festival is filled with not only irresistible barbecues but exciting festival activities, live entertainment, and a beer garden. In between sampling delicious meats, attendees can enjoy lighthearted events like a keg toss, face painting for the kids, pie-eating contests, a golf scramble, and even a bygone-ear sock hop.

International Bar-B-Q Festival

Address: Owensboro, KY

Website: International Bar-B-Q Festival

Takes place: May

Price: Free entry

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14. Covington Oktoberfest [Previously known as MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest]

Mainstrasse Village Oktoberfest
Source: Unsplash

Descending on the tranquil town of Covington in the Fall is an army of tourists and families to enjoy the MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest. Along with Oktoberfest-loving locals, visitors to this event can relish an amiable blend of classic German cuisine and other international foods, body-grooving live music, engaging arts and crafts, and, of course, lots of sudsy craft brews. This event is held in the historic district of MainStrasse Village: a place replete with old-world charm and boasting a rare assortment of delightful shops, fine restaurants, and dynamic pubs. This attractive setting adds to the festival’s intoxicating allure.

MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest

Address: Covington, KY

Website: MainStrasse Village Oktoberfest

Takes place: September

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15. Louisville Gun Show

Louisville Gun Show
Source: Pexels

Held in the massive ultra-modern Kentucky Exposition Center, the Louisville Gun Show is a three-day event filled with every imaginable weapons-related item. An absolute mecca for gun connoisseurs and collectors, this must-visit gun show features a wide range of products like sharp-shooting guns and pistols, expert and lifesaving police products, dazzling accessories, and so much more. Browse more than 500 tables set up by professional vendors eager to introduce you to the latest in fine weaponry.

Louisville Gun Show

Address: 937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY 40209

Website: Louisville Gun Show

Takes place: Usually held in December

Price: 12 USD onwards

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16. Louisville Christmas Gift And Decor Show

Get your holiday retail fix at the marvelous Louisville Christmas Gift And Decor Show. A true holiday extravaganza of festive merchandise, the Louisville Christmas Gift And Decor Show at the impressive Kentucky Exposition Center is the place to find a bundle of Christmastime decorations, presents for friends and family, and much more. This popular three-day show - with visitors numbering over 50,000 every year - offers more than 750 top-quality exhibitor booths to explore.

Louisville Christmas Gift And Decor Show

Address: 937 Phillips Ln, Louisville, KY 40209

Website: Louisville Christmas Gift And Decor Show

Takes place: December

Price: Free

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17. Kentucky Bourbon Festival, Bardstown

Kentucky Bourbon Festival
Source: Photo by user Bedford used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

Turning a spotlight on Kentucky’s signature liquor is the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Over six days, this festival celebrates a wide range of bourbons in a town known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. A few notable activities surrounding this non-stop bourbon party include a sampling of various smooth and smoky bourbons, scrumptious food pairings, the best live entertainment, swanky black-tie galas, a beautiful flower festival, interesting street tours of historic Bardstown, a top-tier golf tournament, and much more.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Address: 114 North Fifth Street, Bardstown, KY 40004

Website: Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Takes place: September

Price: 50 - 160 USD

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18. Louisville New Year’s Spectacular

More than 30,000 shoppers make their way to the Louisville New Year’s Spectacular every year. Held at Kentucky Exposition Center, this fantastic event offers a bustling flea market atmosphere with literally thousands of pavilion-style exhibitor booths helmed buy top-notch dealers from around the country selling everything from old-time knickknacks to cute collectibles to must-have antiques. If you’re on the hunt for everyday items like fragrant candles, sweet-smelling bath and body works, pretty jewelry, and fashionable clothes you can uncover it here as well.

Louisville New Year’s Spectacular

Address: 937 Phillips Lane Louisville, KY 40209

Website: Louisville New Year’s Spectacular

Takes place: December to January

Price: Free entry

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19. The Casey County Apple Festival

Tucked away in the small town of Liberty is The Casey County Apple Festival. Apple fanatics can rest assured they’ll get their apple fix at this delightful festival. Investigate rows of vendors displaying fine arts and crafts, a variety of fun pageants, thrilling fireworks, and mouthwatering food not the least of which is a giant 10-feet (3-meter) fresh-baked apple pie served to the public at no charge. The homespun feel is palpable as you listen to excellent live musical entertainment and watch the jovial parade. The children can be kept entertained with many outstanding contests and carnival games.

The Casey County Apple Festival

Address: 137 Court House Square, Liberty, KY 42539

Website: The Casey County Apple Festival

Takes place: September

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20. Great American Brass Band Festival

Oozing with a good-natured air, the Great American Brass Band Festival brings together famed and locally known brass bands and musicians to celebrate this unique brand of music. Over 12 accomplished brass bands perform creating a wild and raucous atmosphere that’s hard to resist. Along with great music, attendees can expect an energetic parade and an inviting community picnic. This festival concludes with a dazzling fireworks display and a showstopping hot air balloon race at the local airport!

Great American Brass Band Festival

Address: 600 W Walnut St, Danville, KY 40422

Website: Great American Brass Band Festival

Takes place: June

Price: Free entry

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21. World Chicken Festival

Thank you to 84 Lumber Company for sponsoring the Chicken Invasion! All of the entries were absolutely amazing! The...

Posted by World Chicken Festival on Sunday, 29 September 2019

World Chicken Festival is a wonderful tribute to Colonel Sanders of the famous KFC restaurant chain. Home to the original KFC restaurant, Kentucky pays homage to the man who brought the tasty fried chicken to the masses. This four-day celebration offers lots of fun for attendees who want to show off their cooking skills by entering a selection of cooking contests. You can also view parades, a car show displaying a collection of polished autos, great live entertainment, and thrilling sports competitions. If you’re a finger-licking-good-fried-chicken fiend then there’s no place to be than here.

World Chicken Festival

Address: London, KY

Website: World Chicken Festival

Takes place: September

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22. Midway Fall Festival

Posted by Midway Fall Festival on Friday, 29 August 2014

Touted as the best festival in central Kentucky, the Midway Fall Festival is an annual affair held in the quaint surroundings of downtown Midway. Boasting beautiful artwork, lovely homemade crafts, exhilarating live music, complimentary train rides for the tykes, a great petting zoo, enticing sand sculptures, and yummy food, this festival is an extraordinary way to acquaint yourself with Kentucky’s laidback attitude. Visitors will be charmed by the local’s warm hospitality and will enjoy exploring the many pleasant boutiques, shops, and eateries in the immediate neighborhood of the festival.

Midway Fall Festival

Address: Midway, KY 40347

Website: Midway Fall Festival

Takes place: September

Price: Free entry

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23. St. James Court Art Show

St James art fest booth
Source: Photo by user Quadell used under CC BY-SA 3.0

St. James Court Art Show is an in-demand outdoor art and crafts show that’s held every year in the exceptional Old Louisville neighborhood adorned with quaint Victorian houses. This pleasing neighborhood event continues the city of Louisville’s tradition of providing the populace with a hefty dose of cultural and a true artistic legacy. This art show lures over 700 creative artists who present and sell their works in a very relaxed setting. You’re certainly sure to find a vibrant painting or ceramic vase to brighten your home when you explore St. James Court Art Show.

St. James Court Art Show

Address: Louisville, KY

Website: St James Court Art Show

Takes place: September to October

Price: Free entry

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24. Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival [Last event in 2019]

BBQ, Brews & Blues Festival 2019 - Stierch
Source: Photo by user Missvain used under CC BY 4.0

Setting up camp on the banks of the Ohio River, Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival provides a picturesque venue for a day-long diversion of beer, barbecue, and music. Taste various types of grilled meats from an overwhelming display of barbecue stands manned by master grillers from top-notch smokehouses in Louisville. Along with the barbecue, there are other items to tempt you: ice-cold craft beer, refreshing lemonade, side dishes of golden ribbon fries, sweet funnel cakes, luscious ice cream, and more. For listening pleasure, there are live performances by acclaimed blues musicians.

Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival

Address: 3005 River Road, Louisville, KY 40207

Website: Blues, Brews & BBQ Festival

Takes place: June

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25. Jerusalem Ridge Festival

Jerusalem Ridge Festival
Source: Unsplash

A yearly celebration for the founder of bluegrass music, the Jerusalem Ridge Festival is an inspiring event. Bill Munroe was an innovator and mastered the roots of what would become known as bluegrass music in a rustic cabin on the family’s farm. This outdoor festival gathers musicians and fans to acknowledge the contribution of this beloved figure through a stellar line-up of music. Great bands with whimsical names like Joe Hott and the Short Mountian Boys and Terry Hand and the Step Ahead Bluegrass Band have made past appearances at this exceptional festival.

Jerusalem Ridge Festival

Address: Rosine, KY

Website: Jerusalem Ridge Festival

Takes place: September

Price: 10 - 110 USD

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26. Sorghum Festival

Posted by Springfield-Washington County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Kentucky leads the nation in sorghum harvesting and the Sorghum Festival celebrates this abundant crop. Taking place over two days, this festival is packed with lots of awesome live music, mountains of delicious food, and loads of fun for everyone. Compete in the corn hole tournament or challenge yourself at the 5k run. Overindulge on irresistible festival foods or sit on the sidelines and watch the joyful parade. You’ll certainly want to shop the Old Country Store marketplace and buy a supply of the festival’s star attraction: jars of this amber-colored sweet syrup.

Sorghum Festival

Address: Springfield, KY

Website: Sorghum Festival

Takes place: October

Price: Free

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27. Kentucky Renaissance Fair

Posted by Kentucky Renaissance Fair on Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Engage in the rousing Renaissance period filled with brave knights in shining armor, feisty tavern wenches, and fierce jousting at the Kentucky Renaissance Fair. This fair doesn’t disappoint: diving deep into the Renaissance world by hiring expert thespians to recreate the ambiance of life during that time. All attendees can thrill to jousting competitions, captivating sword swallowing, and attention-getting fire-breathing activities. Arts and crafts booths and lots of tantalizing food like humongous turkey legs are always available.

Kentucky Renaissance Fair

Address: 955 Elm St, Eminence, KY 40019

Website: Kentucky Renaissance Fair

Takes place: June to July

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28. Hillbilly Days

Hillbilly Days Main Street
Source: Photo by user AkersUPIKE used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Want to partake in an event that encourages you to dress like a hillbilly? Then check out Hillbilly Days in the small-town grandeur of Pikeville. Each year in the Spring one of the biggest festivals in the state transforms Pikeville’s downtown district into a lively atmosphere with a huge assemblage of arts and crafts booths and a large non-stop carnival. Lots of live music can be heard along with the region’s traditional clogging or square dancing! When you visit Hillbilly Days it’s a must that you come hungry because the food selections are endless and plentiful.

Hillbilly Days

Address: Downtown Pikeville, Pikeville, KY

Website: Hillbilly Days

Takes place: April

Price: Free entry

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29. Kentucky Bluegrass Music & Burgoo Festival [Event has passed]

One of the greatly anticipated events on the state’s festival landscape is the Kentucky Bluegrass Music & Burgoo Festival. A celebration of Kentucky’s rich bluegrass music history, this jubilant three-day event is one of Kentucky’s oldest and most beloved attractions and features top-notch live music entertainment by renown bluegrass bands from throughout the country. Bring your appetite because this festival also showcases many versions of a dish called burgoo - a hearty stew or chunky soup comprised of juicy meat and fresh vegetables traditionally served at outdoor gatherings in the region.

Kentucky Bluegrass Music & Burgoo Festival

Address: Louisville, KY

Takes place: September

Price: 10 USD onwards

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30. Fort Harrod Beef Festival [Event has passed]

If you love beef so much it’s the main ingredient in your daily diet then Fort Harrod Beef Festival is the place for you. This festival was established to draw attention to the robust beef industry in Kentucky and, as a result, meat lovers could not be happier. Aside from the enormous amounts of beef on hand, festival-goers can also revel in lively pageants, chef demonstrations, feel-good music concerts, an arts and crafts fair, and more. If you have little ones in tow take them to the non-stop action at the kid’s carnival or if you’re an avid car fan make your way over to the automobile show.

Fort Harrod Beef Festival

Address: 560 Linden Ave, Harrodsburg, Kentucky 40330

Website: Fort Harrod Beef Festival

Takes place: May

Price: Free entry

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Fabulous Kentucky festivals

Whether you’re in the mood for thoroughbred horseracing action or want to chow down on some lip-smacking out-of-this-world-good barbecue while listening to choice bluegrass performances then Kentucky’s phenomenal festivals are the only places to be. The Bluegrass State’s festivals packed with adrenaline-fulled fun and laidback enjoyment can only heighten your pleasure in Kentucky.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
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Catherine has written professionally for over 10 years, and a sizable amount has been travel writing. Her desire to see the world was sparked at a very young age. Growing up, there were many family...Read more

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