Downtown festivals return following state COVID-19 guidelines for events
Though it will look a little different this year, the City of Somerset will host its free, fall outdoor event – the Moonlight Festival – Saturday, Oct. 17 in downtown Somerset featuring a star-studded lineup of music, food, art and spirits.
The number of people allowed inside the festival area will be reduced by 50 percent (5,000 people) to comply with the state’s guidelines for events and venues. The city’s event team has implemented a number of additional measures to protect those attending, Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said.
“We are implementing all of the state’s recommendations for outdoor events and feel confident we will bring our community an event they can enjoy safely,” Keck said. “We’re extremely excited to be giving residents something to look forward to and to be supporting our local businesses and vendors in a year that has been so challenging. Our Healthy Somerset initiative is focused on improving our minds, bodies and spirits, and hosting an event where we can enjoy food, music and fellowship safely is paramount in doing so.”
The festival, sponsored by Horse Soldier Bourbon, kicks off at 11 a.m. with Somerset’s own bluegrass ensemble Max Power performing on Fountain Square stage. They will be followed by Lexington Americana/folk artist Eric Bolander, bonfire country duo Everette and bluegrass acoustic group The Barefoot Movement, with The War and Treaty and Drake White & The Big Fire closing out the night by 9 p.m.
Described as equal parts Baptist tent revival and southern rock festival, Alabama native Drake White and his band, The Big Fire, have toured with country superstars Willie Nelson, Dierks Bentley, Little Big Town, Zac Brown Band, Eric Church and Toby Keith. White has been featured as one of Rolling Stone’s 10 Country Artists You Need to Know and one of Billboard’s Hot New Country Artists to Watch.
“Drake White has such an incredible fan base, and he completely commands the stage with his soulful voice,” City of Somerset Tourism Director Leslie Ikerd said. “Festival-goers are going to love his performance. It’s the perfect way to celebrate being able to come back together as a community.”
Somerset residents who attended the 2019 Master Musicians Festival may remember The War and Treaty, as they were the act playing on stage when a severe thunderstorm rolled through, canceling the remainder of the festival. “I am thrilled they are going to join us in Somerset again to share their extraordinary music and story,” Ikerd said.
Since forming in 2014, The War and Treaty is a fusion of Southern soul, gospel, country, and rock-and-roll. Known for a live show revival-like in intensity, the husband-and-wife team of Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount-Trotter have opened for the legendary Al Green and toured with Americana stars Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell. Their newest album, Hearts Town, dropped Sept. 25, and the news of its release was highlighted on CBS Sunday Morning and with features on the duo in Rolling Stone and Newsweek.
Moonlight is sponsored by Somerset’s future distillery, Horse Soldier Bourbon, which will be on hand to serve the festival’s signature drink. Crafted by Somerset Tourism in partnership with The Mole Hole Gift Shoppe and Tipsy Toad bar, SomerCider is a fun twist on fall featuring Horse Soldier’s Signature label bourbon and Haney’s Appledale Farm apple cider. The drink recently won the Kentucky League of Cities Signature City Drink contest at the organization’s annual convention in September.
Downtown streets will be filled with Kentucky flavor from a robust list of food and spirit vendors – featuring everything from waffles to pork rinds, pretzels to Mexican, and barbecue to Cajun. Beer, wine, moonshine and bourbon will also be available, and downtown restaurants Serendipity, Downtown Deli, Somerset Sweeterie, Zilla Meals and Granny’s Grab ‘n’ Go will be open to serve guests.
All of this will be enjoyed a bit differently than last year in order to provide a safe event for festival-goers, Ikerd said.
Somerset’s COVID-19 safety plan, approved by the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, includes having five separate entrances to keep crowds from gathering in one place. A symptom board at each entrance will list COVID-19 symptoms and ask those experiencing symptoms not to enter. Each adult and child entering the festival will have their temperature checked and must provide a name and number for contact tracing, Ikerd said.
All festival-goers will be banded upon entering to ensure that everyone inside the festival gates has been screened. Masks are required unless guests are eating, drinking or can properly social distance. The area immediately in front of the Fountain Square stage will be roped off, and people who choose to enter that area to watch bands perform must be masked at all times.
Vendors are required to be screened for temperature, wear shields, masks and gloves at all times, and have a handwashing station at their space. Vendors will be spaced out more than double the normal distance to allow people standing in line to be the recommended 6-feet apart.