Detail of art by Grant Goodwine
Detail of Hunter S. Thompson art by Grant Goodwine

Earlier this spring, 2019 was declared “The Year of Gonzo” in Louisville, as three exhibitions dedicated to hometown hero Hunter S. Thompson are being held at different venues throughout the year. Now, the celebrations are culminating in one afternoon at one easily accessible venue as the ninth annual GonzoFest takes over the Louisville Free Public Library on Saturday, July 20.

The event will include live music, a spoken word showcase featuring artists and poets, a panel of journalists including Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone, William McKeen and Timothy Denevi, food and drink vendors and much more.

After jumping around to various venues in its early days — from the now-defunct Monkey Wrench and Waterfront Park — GonzoFest seems to have found a solid home at the library and now can offer both indoor and outdoor activities for all ages.

Image from GonzoFest
GonzoFest is a yearly tribute to Hunter S. Thompson. | Courtesy of GonzoFest

Musicians joining this year’s fest include Vice Tricks, Zu Zu Ya Ya, Ron Whitehead, Big Atomic, Casey Powell featuring Down to Mars, and Proles. And there will be live art by local artists Braylyn Stewart and Grant Goodwine.

GonzoFest runs from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, and there’s a suggested donation of $10.

Before the fest begins, there also are a few more activities planned beforehand. First up is a birthday celebration for Thompson on Thursday, July 18 — which would have been his 82nd birthday — at the Frazier History Museum.

The Frazier also is the site of one of the gonzo-geared exhibitions, “Freak Power: Hunter S. Thompson’s Campaign for Sheriff,” which runs through Sept. 2.

The Gonzo Birthday Bash takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. and features cake, a toast, food and much more merriment. Admission is $20.

And on Friday, July 19, the Speed Art Museum is dedicating its monthly After Hours at the Speed event to Thompson, starting at 5 p.m., and also celebrating the opening of its new exhibit, “Gonzo! An Illustrated Guide to Hunter S. Thompson.” Along with music and drinks, there will be a gonzo-inspired flash sale courtesy of Tattoo Charlies and a roundtable conversation between Stephen George of WFPL, Juan Thompson, son of Hunter S. Thompson, and author/poet Ron Whitehead.

The event is free for members or the cost of admission for non-members.

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Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). 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."