Fayette County

‘Music and bourbon. What’s better than that?’ Railbird brings large crowd to Keeneland.

For some, Lexington’s Railbird Festival offers visitors a chance to take in what Lexington and Central Kentucky is known for.

For others, Railbird is giving locals something they have long craved — a premier music festival packed with well-known artists.

Railbird patrons enjoyed live music, exclusive bourbon and beer, cooking demonstrations and even some off-track horse racing betting at the first day of the Keeneland music festival Saturday.

Nick Cottrell, of Louisville, arrived in time for the first act of the festival, Lucie Silvas. A music festival veteran, Cottrell said he was glad to see Lexington get a festival similar to Louisville’s Forecastle Festival and Bourbon and Beyond.

“So far it’s great,” said Cottrell, who came with his wife, Caitlyn, and father, Shawn Cottrell, of Frankfort. “I’ve been to Bonnaroo, Forecastle and all that. It’s very comparable and more spread out than I thought it would be.”

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Daphne Bartley, 7, on the shoulders of Jason Hasch, both of Louisville, watched Low Cut Connie perform at the Elkhorn Stage during the Railbird Festival at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

The Cottrell family was looking forward to seeing country acts such as Brandi Carlile, Ruston Kelly and Tyler Childers throughout the weekend, with the elder Cottrell also eager to see the Jack White-led Raconteurs.

Some who traveled from out of state looked forward to trying some of the festival’s exclusive bourbons from Kentucky distilleries, which were available in The Rickhouse section of Railbird.

In addition to seeing some acts “right up my alley,” Cody Bucher, of Estill Springs, Tenn., said he plans on tasting some bourbon while he’s at Railbird.

“This is my first time in Lexington. I didn’t realize it was this big,” said Bucher, who was planning on seeing Childers, The Raconteurs, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Lucinda Williams and Mavis Staples during the festival. “I didn’t know about the Bourbon Trail but we’re gonna be back for a tour.”

Mavis Staples performed on the Limestone Stage during the Railbird Festival at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Some of Lexington’s premier chefs — Ouita Michel, Toa Green of Crank & Boom, Keeneland’s Marc Therrien and Mark Richardson of Dudley’s — led cooking demonstrations in front of crowds at the indoor Sip & Savor stage Saturday. The stage offered patrons a break from the heat and even some samples of the chef’s cooking.

Lisa Williamson, of Springfield, Mo., said she saw Crank & Boom featured on the Cooking Channel last year and knew she wanted to see Green’s demonstration and try some of their ice cream.

“Who’d have thought that I’d be able to see a chef I saw on TV cook at a music festival?” said Williamson, who was planning on seeing Carlile, I’m With Her and Lucinda Williams perform during the weekend.

According to a festival spokesperson, between 15,000 and 20,000 people are expected each day of the festival. Sunday will conclude with Hozier, known for the 2014 hit “Take Me to Church.” He follows Tyler Childers, a Kentuckian who will likely draw a big local crowd. Chefs Dan Wu of Atomic Ramen, “Top Chef” runner-up Sara Bradley and Cole Arimes of Cole’s will each be cooking on stage as well.

And there will be plenty of bourbon. What’s a Kentucky music festival without it, anyway?

“Music and bourbon. What’s better than that?” Owensboro’s Ethan Clark appropriately asked.