Carnival rides, corn dogs — or both? You decide. | Courtesy of the Kentucky State Fair

Since 1902, Kentuckians have partaken in corn dogs, carnival rides and petting cows — all in the name of the Kentucky State Fair. This year’s shindig, which starts Thursday, Aug. 16, is no different, and in fact, it’s adding even more farm animals, free shows and Frankenfoods than ever before.

So let’s start with the music, which is completely free this year with paid fair admission.

The Texas Roadhouse Concert Series is what they’re calling the big acts, and this year’s lineup includes country star Gary Allan (Aug. 16), R&B act 112 (Aug. 17), ’80s rockers Great White (Aug. 18), fair staple The Oak Ridge Boys (Aug. 19), Christian crooners Casting Crowns (Aug. 20), the ’60s and ’70s-inspired group Happy Together Tour (Aug. 21), country newcomer Chris Janson (Aug. 22), indie band Chevelle (Aug. 23), country boy Josh Turner (Aug. 24), the legendary Commodores with Linkin’ Bridge (Aug. 25), and Christian band Mercyme (Aug. 26).

There also will be a slew of local bands and musicians scattered about the beer tents, including one tent for rock ’n’ roll — The Budweiser Tent — and one for country — The Sivori Country Music Tent. Bands include Whiskey Bent Valley Boys, Tony and the Tan Lines, Jeni Carr, Dalton, Wax Factory, Kirby’s Dreamland, the Louisville Crashers and many more.

New this year is an all-local area called Bluegrass Village, which will serve as the entrance to the Texas Roadhouse Concert Series and feature local craft breweries, bourbon distilleries, food and Kentucky retail.

Cattle up. | Courtesy of the Kentucky State Fair

And as always, there will be exhibits, animals, rides, games, funnel cakes, fried Oreos and more people watching than you can shake a cotton candy stick at. There’s also a Kentucky State Fair app, so you can be up-to-date on all the happenings.

Tickets are available at the gate and at Kroger for $10, plus another $10 for parking. You can get them online for a little cheaper ($8 admission, $8 parking), but there also will be fees. And if you happen to read this before Thursday, you can get discounted tickets online and at Kroger for $7 admission, $5 parking.

The Kentucky State Fair runs Aug. 16-26. It’s free for children 5 and under.

Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle ( She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."