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Kentucky State Fair Opens Thursday, Runs Through August 25

The 111-year-old Kentucky State Fair opens Thursday, Aug. 15 in Louisville at the State Fair and Exposition Center and runs through Sunday, Aug. 25.
 
Opening the Main Stage concerts series, always a huge feature of the fair, will be Alan Jackson and Gary Allan on their “Thirty Miles West Tour” Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39 and $49 and purchased through Ticketmaster.
 
Other concerts this year include Carly Rae Jepsen and The Wanted on Aug. 16 at 8 p.m.; Toby Keith with special guest Kip Moore on Aug. 17 at 8 p.m.; A Conversation with the Robertsons: Stars of A&E’s Duck Dynasty Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.; and ventriloquist and standup comedian Jeff Dunham on his “Disorder Conduct Tour” Aug. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for Main Stage attractions vary from $38 to $56 and are available through Ticketmaster.
 
Ten free concerts are available with fair admission at Cardinal Stadium on the Fairgrounds. All shows star at 8 p.m. and gates open at 7 p.m. Concertgoers can enter through Gates 4,5,6 and 7. The roster includes Vertical Horizon, En Vogue, Chevelle, Oak Ridge Boys, Casting Crowns, Clay Walker, Jerrod Niemann, Montgomery Gentry, Theory of a Deadman, and the Happy Together Tour featuring The Turtles, The Grass Roots, Chuck Negron, Gary Lewis, Gary Puckett and Mark Lindsay.
 
Six food tents feature everything from steel drums to country on a regular basis and five stages showcase everything from locally produced musicals to appearances by Fairbear and Fairabear. Other attractions include a BMX stunt show, a patriotic state musical, gardening tips, magic, comedy, amazing Dobermans, ventriloquism, a family band, a circus, Amazing Arthur, a musical honoring the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, Border Collies and The Rubber Chicken Show.

No Kentucky State Fair would be complete without a variety of horse shows. This year’s fair features a week of World’s Championship Horse Show events for more than 2,000 Saddlebreds. Ticketed shows begin at 6:30 and 7 p.m. and run from $14-25. Morning shows are free. An all-encompassing ticket to all 13 shows and daily fair admission is $205. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster.

A free three-day Miniature Horse Show takes place Aug. 22-24, and offers competition in over 60 classes based on size, gender and age.
 
Livestock competitions feature beef and dairy cattle, mules, pigs, chickens, pigeons, rabbits, sheep and goats in the Broadbent Arena and Pavilion. Various 4-H and Future Farmers of America exhibits go throughout the fair and the champion livestock sale takes place Aug. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
 
State artisans, crafters, cooks, farmers and companies exhibit all over the tens of thousands of square footage. A number of educational opportunities exist, as well, including health screenings, exhibits on progress, a Discovery Farm and anniversaries commemorating Kentucky and the War of 1812 and the Civil War.
 
The annual Coca-Cola Talent Classic contest runs Aug. 17-18 with the finals streamed live at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24. The JAMBrands will sponsor this year’s Cheer and Dance Championship. A 30-minute Cast-Iron Chef Competition takes place each day at 1:30 p.m. in the South Wing A Lobby. Other contests starting Aug. 16 are the Largest Pumpkin Contest, Little Miss and Mister Kentucky County Fairs Pageant, Parade of Champions, Kentucky Farm Bureau’s Annual Gospel Quartet Contest, the Mrs. Wyndall Smith Quilt Award presentation and the ‘Somethin to Crow About’ Rooster Crowing Contest.
 
Midway rides and tents stay open through midnight, but most exhibits close at 10 p.m. if not earlier. Gates open at 7 a.m., exhibits open at 9 a.m. and Thrillway opens each day at noon.

Advance tickets through Aug. 14 are available only at Kroger stores for $8 for adults, $4 for seniors 55 and over, and $4 for children ages 3-12. Tickets at the gate beginning Aug. 15 are $10 for adults, $6 for seniors 55 and over (except Senior Day, Aug. 20, when they are $1), and $6 for children ages 3-12. Active Duty and Veterans’ families will receive discounts with a military ID on Monday, Aug. 19. Parking is $8 per vehicle per entry. 

Rides on the Thrillway are 22 tickets for $25, or $20 for a ride wristband on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays, Fridays and the first Sunday, Aug. 18. Wristbands on both Saturdays are $25. On Monday, Aug. 19, and the closing Sunday, Aug. 25, are $15. A new feature this year is the Thrillway Express Access which is $15 and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
 
For more information, click here.

A bit of history

The Kentucky State Fair began in 1902 to “advance the agricultural and mechanical prospects of the region,” according to the fair’s media guide. The inaugural event was deemed a success, raising $15,000 for the state and bringing in nearly 75,000 visitors.

Born during the Progressive era, an early fair promotional slogan “Kentucky’s Parade of Progress” foreshadowed the future success of the summertime attraction. The fair now brings in more than 600,000 guests each year and raises more than $16.5 million in revenue for the state.

However, the fair saw its share of hard times. Two years after it began, the 1904 fair was canceled as lawmakers argued over budget sources and location. It was the first of three cancellations – the next two in 1942 and 1943, when the fairgrounds were used for the production of war materials. Men and women in uniform returned in 1944 and were admitted to the fair free of charge.

Almost a decade later in 1956, the new Kentucky Exposition Center played host and marked a turning point. Worth $38 million at the time, the new location helped boast a plethora of new civic and social events to satisfy both the growing urban and rural crowds. An extensive schedule of events celebrated the new facility, including a professional football game between the Baltimore Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles. More than 25,000 cars carrying over 500,000 people converged onto Louisville’s streets, causing the worst traffic jam ever documented in the city’s history.

Legendary names such as Johnny Cash, June Carter and the stars of the No. 1-rated television show the Beverly Hillbillies paid Louisville a summer visit. The 1970′s continued to provide Kentuckians the chance to see popular celebrities like the Osmonds and Darth Vader from the box office smash Star Wars. An eclectic variety of guests in the 1980′s and 1990′s included everyone from new Kids on the Block and Don and Phil Everly, to then-Vice President Walter Mondale and Garth Brooks.

The Kentucky State Fair, which started in the year before the Wright Brothers took their first successful flight, now sits permanently on 420 acres. More than 100 years and millions of visitors later, it continues to showcase the state.

Source: Kentucky State Fair via KY Forward

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