Curious Louisville

Walk around the fair and you’ll see a few local names — like Goodwood beer in the karaoke tent, or Mr. G’s Kettle Corn. But by and large, it’s all about the commonwealth. A new mini-festival Thursday night was an attempt to bring some Louisville flair to the proceedings.

For years, certain nights at the fair have been known for certain concert themes. The Oak Ridge Boys always play on the first Sunday night. Tuesday is “Senior Day,” and Monday night there’s always a Christian rock show.

But the second Thursday hasn’t really had a strong identity, so it was the perfect time for a little experimentation. That’s where Fairenheit 17 comes in.

Louisville food trucks and booths giving out samples of local beer lined the borders of the Cardinal Stadium field, and CirqueLouis performed aerial acrobatics and fire tricks.

On stage, the entire lineup was from right here in town. 64 West, Tony and the Tan Lines, and the headlining act, Ben Sollee (in his first-ever appearance at the Kentucky State Fair).

“In a lot of ways, people come to the state fair to be at the state fair,” Sollee said, “so trying to do something that’s so curated is a really cool experiment.”

Kentucky Venues CEO Jason Rittenberry said the festival is part of an effort to attract new and younger audiences.

“Most of the demographic that is here tonight, that we attempted to reach, are people who wouldn’t normally come to the fair,” he said.

It makes sense that a state-wide fair would showcase the best of the commonwealth, and the fair has always been good at that.

“But we are in Louisville,” Ritteberry said. “And if we we want Louisville people to come to the fair, we have to focus on what Louisville people want, at least for a night. And that’s what tonight’s all about.”

Kentucky Venues hasn’t yet released attendance numbers for the festival, but officials said they’re pleased with the turnout.

Laura produces Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.