Keeneland to Host Inaugural Railbird Festival Featuring A-List Music, Bourbon, and Equine Experiences

Events / Travel
Fans congregate on The Hill at Keeneland during a race meet; the racetrack will host the Railbird Festival featuring music and bourbon in August. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Historic Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky., announced Wednesday that it will host the inaugural Railbird Festival on Aug. 10-11, 2019, a two-day celebration of music, bourbon, and central Kentucky’s unique equine culture.

The Railbird Festival is presented by AC Entertainment, producers of the popular annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival held in Tennessee and Louisville’s Forecastle Festival, an annual event held each July at the city’s Waterfront Park. The music lineup for the inaugural Railbird Festival will be announced soon, but festival planners said that a mix of rock, Americana, folk, bluegrass, and other genres will be featured.

“Will all of our festivals, we aspire to create an experience that stands apart from others – that is a true celebration of place, of the richness and uniqueness of a community,” said Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment, in a release announcing the festival. “That, for us, is at the heart of any truly great festival experience. What a place this is, and what a team to collaborate with. This iconic setting of Keeneland in a city like Lexington and these visionary leaders who make it all work, from bourbon to horses to bluegrass and everything in between. We couldn’t be more excited for this new venture.”

Organizers said the festival will take place in The Meadow and on The Hill, two areas on Keeneland’s picturesque grounds adjacent to the racetrack that are often crowded with tailgating fans during Keeneland’s April and October live race meets. The festival’s name brings together two worlds – the avid horse racing fan leaning over the rail to cheer on a winning Thoroughbred, and a music lover in the front row singing along at a concert.

The Railbird festival will offer a number of VIP and General Admission equine-focused experiences, excursions and meals, as well as off-track wagering on racing at Saratoga, Del Mar, Ellis Park, and more. Ticketing information will be announced soon.

Reflecting Kentucky’s world-famous distilled spirits culture, a number of bourbon distillers will be on-site during the two-day event with special, exclusive offerings available only at the Railbird Festival. Artisanal and local foods will also be featured along with craft beers.

“Railbird will be a celebration of our heritage, and an up-close and personal Kentucky experience at our historic racecourse,” said Keeneland Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Vince Gabbert. “AC Entertainment brings an incredible track record and years of experience and expertise in booking and managing highly acclaimed music festivals, so we are pleased to work with them to create Railbird here on the grounds at Keeneland.”

Lexington businessman David Helmers spearheaded the effort to bring together Keeneland, Visit Lex, city officials, and other organizations to create the event. Railbird will also give back to the community via partnerships with local nonprofits Central Music Academy, Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, Fayette Alliance, and Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Each nonprofit will receive monetary support from the festival, and will have a presence on-site during the event.

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

To learn more about the Railbird Festival, and to sign up for a newsletter and the chance to win tickets, visit their website. Stay up-to-date with Railbird news and events by following the festival on Facebook and Instagram @RailbirdFestival and on Twitter @RailbirdFest.

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