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    We all know the Kentucky State Fair is coming to Louisville at the end of this month. We’ve seen the concert billboards along the highway and the flashing announcements by the Expo Center during our morning commute. But who actually knows what’s special about this year’s Fair? Who knows when and where the big events are happening? Here are the highlights and can’t-misses for this year’s celebration of all things Kentucky.

    The Finer Points

    The Kentucky State Fair will be held Thursday, August 20 – Sunday, August 30. Gates open every day at 7 a.m., and exhibits open at 9 a.m. Exhibit halls will close at 9 p.m., and the Midway and tents close at midnight.


    • In advance: $8 for adults, $4 for children 6-12 and seniors 55+ (Advance ticket sales end August 19 at 10 p.m.)
    • At the gate: $10 for adults, $6 for children 6-12 and seniors 55+


    • In advance: $5 (Advance ticket sales end August 19 at 10 p.m.)
    • At the gate: $8, and free offsite parking on weekends (Fridays – Sundays) at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

    Special promotions and discounts on admission for seniors and military personnel can be found here.

    The Concerts

    Since Aretha Franklin and Meghan Trainor have cancelled their planned appearances at this year’s Fair, only two main stage Freedom Hall concerts remain: the Barrels and Boots Music Festival and Boyz II Men with Kool & The Gang.

    This Friday, August 21 at 5 p.m. the Barrels and Boots Festival will feature country stars Montgomery Gentry, John Michael Montgomery, RaeLynn, Eric Paslay, Kelsie May and Craig Campbell. Ticket prices range from $37 to $66 (including Fair admission) and are available for purchase here.

    R&B legends Boyz II Men and Kool & The Gang will also bring their smooth style to the main stage Sunday, August 30 at 8 p.m. Ticket prices range from $50 to $79 (including Fair admission) and are available for purchase tickets here.

    If you can’t make it to either of these shows, never fear. The main stage concerts aren’t the only musical celebrations at the fairgrounds. The Turf Concert Series begins every night at 8 p.m. These performances are all attractively free of charge (with the cost of fair admission), but that’s not the only reason to be excited.

    The Turf Series takes place on the open turf at Cardinal Stadium, where concert-goers will be surrounded by concessions from local food trucks – hopefully featuring such signature fair food as deep-fried hot browns and doughnut burgers – for a close-to-the-music, outdoor experience. Artists will include Jagged Edge, Oak Ridge Boys, The Turtles and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. For the full list of performers and dates, click here.

    The Animals

    We can’t forget that our state is a virtual hub for all things agriculture, so be sure to make the livestock a part of your visit. Dairy cattle, beef cattle and Border Collies strutting through their breeding shows will be in the West Wing until August 24 at noon. If Draft horses, goats and miniature horses are more appealing for you or your kids, those shows will be held in the Broadbent area. Finally, head to the pavilion to see the illustrious birds, rabbits, hogs and sheep of Kentucky. See the full schedule of livestock competitions here.

    The World’s Championship Horse Show will also be held August 22 – 29 in Freedom Hall. Hailed as the world’s most prestigious Saddlebred horse show, the event will include categories such as fine harness (horses and ponies proving their grace while dragging carts) and roadster (horses proving their speed while dragging bike-type vehicles). For more information on the show, visit the event’s website.

    The Good Clean Fun

    Rides on the Midway are a part of any complete Fair visit. This year the Fair offers all-day wristbands for the Midway that can be purchased online until tomorrow, August 19 for $20 for adults and $12 for kids. Day-of wristbands are $25 for adults and $12 for kids. Purchase wristbands here.

    Also, remember to catch the balloon masters at work for this year’s twisted, rubbery masterpiece. Last year the balloon masters created an entire candy kingdom, complete with giant ice cream cones and lollypop fairies, so who knows what they’ll come up with this year.

    The balloons aren’t the only art to see, though. Artists from all over the state come every year to compete and display their beautiful paintings, sculptures, woodwork, antiques and culinary achievements. Don’t miss the opportunity to ogle at the extravagant wedding cakes and gorgeous quilts on display every day.

    Also planned throughout the Fair are multiple acrobatic acts, magic shows, cooking demonstrations, comedy routines, dog shows and educational presentations. All these events will be free to attend. See the full list of daily shows here.

    If you live in Louisville and have never before attended the State Fair for whatever reason, this is the year to end that disturbing streak. Surely something on this list can appeal to your desire for culture, food or simple, old-fashioned fun. Hope to see you on the fairgrounds!

    Images courtesy of The Kentucky State Fair

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