Fayette County

Festival with ‘A-list music’ coming to Keeneland via producers of Forecastle, Bonnaroo

Keeneland announces festival with ‘A-list music’

Railbird Festival will take place Aug. 10-11 at Keeneland in Lexington. AC Entertainment, which produces Bonnaroo and Forecastle, introduced the festival Wednesday morning.
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Railbird Festival will take place Aug. 10-11 at Keeneland in Lexington. AC Entertainment, which produces Bonnaroo and Forecastle, introduced the festival Wednesday morning.

Thousands of people are expected to flock to Keeneland for a new event this August, and horses aren’t involved.

AC Entertainment, founders and producers of Bonnaroo and producers of Forecastle, will organize a new music event — Railbird Festival — that will take place Aug. 10-11 at Keeneland. Details on music acts are expected to be released next month, VisitLex president Mary Quinn Ramer said.

Festival planners say Railbird will feature a mix of rock, Americana, folk and bluegrass music at two stages on the Keeneland grounds, as opposed to inside the racetrack gate, paddock or infield areas. Bourbon will also be highlighted at Railbird with distillers’ on-site special, exclusive offerings.

While ticket information will be released later, Railbird will offer VIP and general admission horse-related experiences and excursions, including off-track betting, according to a news release.

“Railbird Festival will bring A-list music and Lexington’s best this August — Keeneland, Kentucky bourbon, local cuisine and craft beer,” said Lexington Mayor Linda Gorton in the release. “I look forward to seeing our city shine in the national spotlight.”

The word “railbird” is a horse-racing term for a racetrack regular who sticks close to the action. To “ride the rail” is to do the same at a concert.

The two-day festival is expected to draw 15,000 to 20,000 people, and the hope is for it to become an annual, three-day event, Ramer said.

The impetus for a Lexington music festival came after an examination of what the city was lacking to attract visitors.

“About 18 months ago, we did an audit of Lexington as a destination, and one of the many recommendations was to create a signature festival,” Ramer said. “While there are many locally known festivals and events, we didn’t have anything quite to the level to bring people in for overnight stats, to make a weekend of it.”

After the collapse of the Moontower music festival after 2017, Ramer and others realized they needed to recruit professional help to establish Railbird.

Enter AC Entertainment, a nationally recognized festival producer that created Bonnaroo in 2002 and helped grow Louisville’s Forecastle into “one of the coolest festivals in America,” according to Rolling Stone. AC also produces several other festivals in the area, as well as more than 1,000 concerts each year.

“This iconic setting at Keeneland in a city like Lexington, Kentucky, and these visionary leaders who make it all work, from bourbon to horses to bluegrass and everything in between,” said AC Entertainment president Ashley Capps in the release. “We couldn’t be more excited for this new venture.”

Other music events in Kentucky include Lexington’s Red, White & Boom, as well as Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond and the just-announced Hometown Rising.

Co-producing Railbird is David Helmers, who said the festival will become a point of pride for the community and a tourism draw. Helmers became one of the co-owners for Lexington’s Moontower Music Festival in 2016.

In June after the demise of Moontower, Helmers told the Herald-Leader a Lexington rock festival would be able to find an audience.

“The potential for a music festival here is great,” Helmers said. “We live in a very unique and wonderful place, and I believe we can celebrate that with a first-rate music festival that presents great musical talent while showcasing the very best that our region has to offer.”

For more information on Railbird Festival, visit RailbirdFest.com, and stay up-to-date on Railbird news on Facebook and Instagram @RailbirdFestival and Twitter @RailbirdFest.

Mike Stunson covers breaking news and real-time news for the Lexington Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com. He is a 2011 Western Kentucky University graduate who has previously worked at the Paducah Sun and Madisonville Messenger as a sports reporter.