This map shows the layout of the fair. | Courtesy of Kentucky Venues

Kentucky Venues has introduced a mobile application and made several changes that officials hope will ease traffic and improve the experience for those attending this year’s Kentucky State Fair.

Gates open for the state fair at 7 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17., with exhibits opening at 9 a.m. The final day of the Kentucky State Fair is Sunday, Aug. 27.

The entity that oversees the Kentucky State Fairgrounds and Exposition Center, Kentucky Venues has debuted a mobile application available on the iPhone app store and Google Play, which allows fair-goers to buy tickets in advance for the fair, concerts and other related events. Users also can prepay for parking, view food and drink options, create their own schedule, get alerts about traffic and use a map to find their way to specific exhibits.

“Planning ahead is going to make your day better,” said Jason Rittenberry, president and CEO of Kentucky Venues.

It also will be less expensive. People who buy tickets in advance will pay $7, while those who wait until Aug. 17 will pay $10 for admission. Parking is $10 per vehicle starting Aug. 17, but only $5 if paid in advance.

In addition to being available online, advanced tickets are sold at most Kroger locations.

Free parking will be available across Phillips Lane from Gate 1 on Friday through Sunday starting at 5 p.m. However, it is first come, first serve.

The Kentucky State Fair app also offers alerts for emergencies or event changes. | Screenshot

Also new this year, those who pay in advance for both admission and parking can enter the fair using express lanes at gates 1, 3, 4 and 6.

“We want to alleviate the long lines at the entry gates,” Rittenberry said, adding that traffic congestion won’t completely go away but prepaid fair guests should be able to “breeze right in” once they reach the gate.

Before cars reach the gate, workers will check to ensure that only prepaid fair-goers move into the express lane, he said. Their tickets will then be scanned at the gate entrance.

The fair has an estimated $15 million economic impact. This year, anywhere from 500,000 to 600,000 people are expected to attend the Kentucky State Fair during its 11-day run.

That many people leads to traffic backups around the fairgrounds and sometimes onto the interstate, said Louisville Metro Police Department Lt. Joe Seelye. It could also cause accidents.

Seelye recommended that drivers look at Google and Apple maps to assess the traffic before coming down to the fairgrounds as well as use less popular entry gates onto the property.

Gate 1, which is located just off the Interstate 264 exit, is the most popular and always the most congested. LMPD officers may have to close the gate at times or even shut down Phillips Lane, to eliminate any dangerous backups onto the interstate, Seelye said.

A free tram service runs from parking lot to parking lot on the fairgrounds allowing attendees to get close to the exhibits and attractions they’d like to see. The service runs every 15 to 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to midnight.

LMPD will have 40 officers managing traffic on the weekends and 30 on the weekdays. There also will be 100 state troopers on duty inside the Kentucky State Fair.

Seelye added that masses of people can also lead to crime. He suggested people leave valuables at home or stash them in the vehicle before they get to the fairgrounds.

“These are times different than 20 years ago,” he said. “If you see something, say something.”

Another big change for the Kentucky State Fair is the location of the midway, which Kentucky Venues has renamed Thrill Ville. Formerly located in Lot L next to Kentucky Kingdom, all the rides and games will be given a spot front and center just inside Gate 1.

“Coming in last year as a fair-goer, without being an employee here, I drove in and saw this big Ferris wheel and I thought ‘Oh great, there’s the Midway.’ That was Kentucky Kingdom,” Rittenberry said. “We really want the fair midway to be the identifying feature when you come into the state fair. The state fair is all about the rides and the fun.”

The fairgrounds won’t lose any parking because of the move, he said.

Some concerns were raised last week following a ride malfunction that lead to one death at the Ohio State Fair. However, Rittenberry said, Kentucky Venues has been in touch with its ride operator to ensure that no rides manufactured by the company whose ride malfunctioned are present at the Kentucky State Fair.

Inspectors with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture will be on site every day, he said.

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Caitlin Bowling
Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]