Stage & Dance

Spotlight Lexington festival to return in fall

Spotlight Lexington, the event that brought thousands of people downtown during the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, will ride again this fall.

"What we heard was you wanted to do it again," Kip Cornett, chairman of the Spotlight Legacy Committee, said at a news conference Thursday morning to announce the second edition of the festival.

The 2011 edition will be Sept. 23 to Oct. 2, again with activities focused at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza downtown, where a huge stage hosted acts including country star Blake Shelton, jazz favorite Trombone Shorty and local artists including the Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra.

Cornett said there will be changes in format, reducing the number of days to 10 from 17 and the geographic area to focus on the courthouse and the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion at Cheapside Park. Triangle Park will not be included. Most of the events will be free, Cornett said, but there might be a few ticketed events at the Lexington Opera House and the Kentucky Theatre.

There will be an emphasis on the same diversity of acts that Cornett and others said made Spotlight 2010 such a success. Among the hits at last fall's fest were Shorty and the Bluegrass duo of J.D. Crowe and Sam Bush, attracting crowds from ages "8 to 80," Cornett said.

"It was a broad cross-section of our community there," said Tom Martin, who performed at Spotlight with his band, The City, and will chair the festival's entertainment committee this year.

There is a 30-person committee in place for the event, including Martin, editor in chief of Business Lexington; LexArts president and CEO Jim Clark; and Downtown Lexington Corp. president Renee Jackson.

Spotlight 2011, which Cornett said will have a budget of about $500,000, will be funded entirely by private donations. Spotlight leaders said in October that last year's festival cost $600,000 to $700,000. Then-Mayor Jim Newberry's office was a major presenter of Spotlight 2010. Mayor Jim Gray's office will not be a presenter of the new edition, although Cornett said, "We need to work closely with the mayor's office," on police presence and road closings.

Road closings should be kept to a minimum, Cornett said, but organizers do want to create a "festival zone" again, where people can move freely and carry open alcoholic beverage containers.

In terms of food vendors, Cornett said, the festival will try to focus on Kentucky favorites, which were a big hit at last year's event.

"We won't have the Games this time," Cornett said. "But we've shown we know how to have a good time."