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Kentucky Storytellers: Events

Glenn Taylor Jr. is a serious music festival fan.

“My wife and I are really into music,” said Taylor, who has traveled with his wife and young daughter in an RV to enjoy music festivals across the country. “We’ve been to probably more than 200 festivals and more concerts than I can count.”

One festival, though, is his favorite: The Romp Festival, held annually in his hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky.

Entering its 17th year in 2020, the yearly festival, hosted by the Bluegrass Music Museum and Hall of Fame, celebrates the “roots and branches” of bluegrass music, bringing top-tier headlining acts to Owensboro’s Yellow Creek Park including Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Del McCoury and others.

Taylor’s family business, Glenn Funeral Home, is one of the sponsors of the annual Romp Festival, and he personally enjoys volunteering on the “Street Team” for the event, helping with preevent marketing, passing out drinks to volunteers during the event and offering other logistical support.

Mostly, though, he loves reveling in the great music and unique community that develops at the festival year after year.

“The music is so important, first and foremost,” he said. “But the energy and the vibe and the feeling of family at Romp is so important to that festival. When you come to Romp, as soon as you cross into those gates, you’re part of a new family.”

Over the years, Taylor has enjoyed sets by well-known musicians such as Vince Gill and Steve Martin, who performed alongside the Steep Canyon Rangers. He’s also seen up-and-coming performers like Billy Strings grow and evolve through repeated appearances on the Romp Stage.

“Billy Strings is an incredibly talented, energetic performer who is one of the artists kind of stretching bluegrass music into different genres,” Taylor said. “As I’ve watched him perform year after year, seeing his growth has been wonderful.”

Still, Taylor says the best part of the Romp Festival has been watching it grow from a young, startup event to achieve status as one of the premier bluegrass festivals in the nation.

“Having been to so many festivals across the country, getting to watch this one grow in my own backyard in a town that I’m so proud of, has been amazing,” Taylor said. “It brings light to bluegrass music, to Owensboro itself and to Kentucky.”

Great American Brass Band Festival

Each June, the city of Danville, Kentucky, welcomes big band, jazz and military band aficionados from across the country, as well as some of the best brass bands from around the world, for its annual Great American Brass Band Festival, a four-day extravaganza that includes dozens of outdoor concerts, as well as a picnic, a hot-air-balloon race and a parade.

Romp Festival

Held in Owensboro each June and sponsored by the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the Romp Festival celebrates “the roots and branches” of bluegrass through a series of headliner concerts with some of the biggest names in the genre. Past performers have included Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Patty Loveless and Sam Bush. The festival also includes musician-led workshops and lots of opportunities for bluegrass jam sessions.

Kentucky Bourbon Festival

Held in Bardstown, the self-proclaimed Bourbon Capital of the World, the third week of each September, the Kentucky Bourbon Festival annually draws some 50,000 visitors to central Kentucky to enjoy bourbon tastings, free music concerts, workshops on the history and science of distillation, and more.

Covington Oktoberfest at MainStrasse Village

An annual favorite since 1979, the Oktoberfest at MainStrasse Village in Covington, Kentucky, just across the river from Cincinnati, celebrates the region’s rich German heritage with a street festival and an array of vendors selling German food, music, art and beer.

St. James Court Art Show

Held each year in Louisville during the first weekend in October, the St. James Court Art Show is a long-running, juried fine-art-and-crafts show that annually draws more than 700 artists from around the country. Held in St. James Court, a neighborhood of historic, Victorian-era homes in Old Louisville, the street festival showcases arts and crafts of all types, from painting and jewelry to fiber works, pottery, woodworks and stained glass, and is annually voted among the best art festivals in the country.

World Chicken Festival

Visitors to the World Chicken Festival, held each September in London, can enjoy fried chicken from the World’s Largest Stainless Steel Skillet, which has served more than 120,000 chicken dinners since 1992. The three-day festival, launched to celebrate the region’s ties to the origins of both Kentucky Fried Chicken and Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken, also includes midway rides and carnival games, craft and food vendors, concerts, a parade and much more.