For those who like music with their bourbon, go ahead and block off the entire month of September, as Danny Wimmer Presents — the producer of Louder Than Life and Bourbon & Beyond — is adding a festival to the lineup and taking over the grounds of the Kentucky Fair & Expo Center this year.
At a news conference held Tuesday afternoon at the Frazier History Museum, Mayor Greg Fischer, Danny Hayes, chief executive of DWP, Karen Williams, president and CEO of Louisville Tourism, the bourbon authority Fred Minnick and others shared the news with media and industry representatives, city officials and more.
The news, boiled down, is that the new country music and bourbon fest, called Hometown Rising, will be held Sept. 14-15, kicking off three consecutive weekends of Danny Wimmer Presents festivals. After that, of course, Bourbon & Beyond will be held Sept. 20-22, followed by Louder Than Life from Sept. 27-29.
For country music fans, the lineup is quite a catch, featuring headliners Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, Little Big Town, and Dwight Yoakam, among dozens of others including the local musician J.D. Shelburne.
The festival will include a bourbon component, naturally, since, as Minnick pointed out, country music and whiskey often go hand in hand.
There is still a headliner slot to be named, so stay tuned. And for some reason, Bret Michaels, the former frontman of ’80s band Poison, is crashing the party as well. Perhaps he’s gone country?
The second big news of the day is the partnership with the Kentucky Fair & Expo Center as the new venue for the outdoor festivals. Champions Park, off River Road, proved to be a massive muddy mess last year and was deemed unsafe for continued operations.
From a site map shown at the news conference, there’s an open outdoor area on the expo grounds that will now be called Highland Festival Grounds — nothing to do with the Louisville neighborhood of the same name, but everything to do with the word “high” to assure those that another mud incident won’t take place — where the stages and tents will be constructed, with additional land adjacent to the field for those camping.
Finally, the third news nugget from the event, which may appeal to most Louisvillians wondering how they’re going to afford tickets to three festivals all in the same month, is what organizers are calling the “Trifesta Pass.”
Basically, for a discounted rate of $229, the pass allows general admission weekend access to all three fall festivals, and — wait for it — it can be transferred to other people. So if you’re not a country fan, you could pass it on to a friend who is and then get it back in time for Bourbon & Beyond.
Mayor Fischer said he is more than pleased with the four years Danny Wimmer Presents has been in Louisville, and this trifecta of festivals will help bolster tourism for the city and the state.
“We will have eight days of internationally prominent music, food and spirits with bourbon in 15 days,” said Mayor Fischer. “There will be no other city anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world, that will be able to match this type of entertainment and food and bourbon offering we’re going to provide.”
David Beck, president and CEO of Kentucky Venues, believes the 600 acres the Kentucky Fair & Expo Center has available will make it the perfect location.
Although the lease was signed just before the news conference, Beck wanted the organizers of Danny Wimmer Presents to know this: “We recognize the value to the community of you being here, we appreciate your business. You provide a wonderful opportunity — high-end entertainment — not just for us but for the region. We want you here in Louisville.”
Finally, Williams of Louisville Tourism noted that the Expo Center is the fifth-largest convention facility in the United States, and the fact that there will now be three festivals held back to back, it’s going to increase tourism numbers like no other year.
“This is huge for the city of Louisville, and it’s taken great partnerships,” she said. “Because of these three festivals three weekends in a row, this combined will be the largest driver of Louisville tourism at this point, right behind the Kentucky Derby.”
Tickets for Hometown Rising go on sale starting Friday, Feb. 15, at noon. Check out the entire lineup online.