Moonlight Festival, #seemyset Art Market take bronze in experience development during KTIA’s annual conference
The last four years have been marked with scores of new experiences in Somerset, with the addition of festivals and events that celebrate food, music and art.
Two of those experiences — Moonlight Festival, the community’s signature fall event, and the #seemyset Art Market, an open-air market created to celebrate tourism at home – were selected as bronze-level winners in the experience development category last week at the 2022 Kentucky Travel Industry Association (KTIA) Traverse Awards for Excellence.
The Traverse Awards, announced annually KTIA’s Kentucky Travel Industry Conference, celebrate and honor the talent, creativity and effectiveness in marketing among KTIA members. Gold, silver and bronze winners are selected in 11 categories and five divisions based on specific judging criteria and annual budget size.
Three judges from outside the state judge each entry and evaluate its concept, creativity, results and impact, and overall project impression.
The experience development category was new to the competition this year, and with its addition, See Somerset Tourism Director Leslie Ikerd said she saw an opportunity to highlight two of the community’s most popular new experiences at the state level.
“Our event team puts so many hours into building experiences that tell Somerset’s story through food, music and art, so that people who visit know how special this place truly is and people at home can celebrate it,” Ikerd said. “To be able to share this story with my fellow tourism professionals and be recognized for it with these awards is an honor.”
Ikerd developed the #seemyset Art Market during the COVID-19 pandemic as a safe, open-air event that highlighted tourism at home. Instead of hosting the market in downtown’s streets, Ikerd selected a venue outside the city limits — taking downtown into the county to promote all it has to offer to residents. The event featured food trucks, local and regional art vendors, and acoustic music sets throughout the day.
During the event, See Somerset Tourism also unveiled its Mural Walk, a collaboration with the city’s Healthy Somerset initiative to encourage physical activity while enjoying outdoor art.
“The art market was a wonderful opportunity for us to think locally and regionally and ensure that those who live in our community know about the talent and creativity that exists in their backyard,” Ikerd said. “It was a welcome event to so many who had been sheltering at home during the pandemic, and to the artists and businesses who needed our support during this time.”
Moonlight Festival has become the official kickoff to fall in downtown Somerset, a celebration that during the last four years has drawn thousands to experience a day full of music, food and live art creation. This free event attracted a record crowd this year — nearly 9,000 people from across the country (including states like New Jersey, Ohio and Missouri) attended on Oct. 15.
Ikerd said Moonlight Festival has become the anchor of all of Somerset’s festivals, and it has been exciting to watch it develop into a community and regional favorite.
“There’s just something about this festival,” Ikerd said. “The crisp fall weather, the sounds of outstanding music floating through the air, the smell and taste of Kentucky’s best flavors — it’s a truly special event that has become a staple in our community. I am grateful the judges saw Moonlight Festival’s uniqueness because I believe it will be an event that becomes part of Somerset’s history.”