Inaugural Railbird Festival coming to Lexington in August


A fan cheering on for her pick of the race to win on College Scholarship Day at Keeneland on Friday, October 20, 2017 in Lexington , Kentucky. Photo By Genna Melendez | Staff

Hailey Peters

Music. Bourbon. Equine.

These three trademarks are the foundations of the new Railbird Festival coming to Lexington this summer.

“Railbird” is a horse racing term for people who go to the track often and always sit next to the rail of the track, and the term fits the music festival because “to ride the rail” is to do the same thing at a concert.

Railbird is a newly created music festival from the makers of Forecastle and Bonnaroo. The event was teased for months before the official announcement came out in February of this year. After the lineup was released on March 26, buzz for the new music festival has arisen throughout the bluegrass.

“Oh yeah, I’m for sure going to try to go,” said UK junior biology major Caroline Terydin. “I’ve been going to Bonnaroo and Forecastle since I was probably around 15 or 16. Music festivals are just really cool, and I love that we are finally getting on in Lexington. Also, when I saw that lineup, I knew I absolutely had to go. My boyfriend and I bought tickets this morning, actually.”

Jack White’s rock band The Raconteurs and vocal star Hozier headline both days of the festival, but the lineup also includes up-and-coming country star Tyler Childers and Grammy nominee Brandi Carlile.

“I think it’s kind of cool that there’s such big names coming to Lexington,” said Charlie Reynolds, a sophomore business management student at UK. “Lexington is not a huge city, but when things like this happen, it feels like it could be getting there in the next few years if it’s successful.”

Although the demographic that the festival is aimed at is older than what most music festivals gear towards, music critics have commented that the inaugural festival shows a lot of potential to grow into a very successful event within the next decade, if things go as well as the creators intend.

Live music is not the only thing drawing people to Railbird. In addition to the music being showcased, Railbird will also feature Keeneland’s trademark off-track horse betting and lounging, and Keeneland’s BETologists can offer betters advice to win money.

“It’d be cool to win back the money you pay on tickets,” Reynolds said. “That’s kind of the unique thing about having a festival in Lexington.”

VIP guests will get special dinners and trackside brunches made for them in the Keeneland Paddock on Friday night and throughout the rest of the weekend. If festival-goers are not VIP, they can purchase special tickets on a daily basis to be able to join the meal.

The bourbon aspect of the festival comes with The Rickhouse, where bourbon tastings will be offered from renowned distilleries all over the state of Kentucky. The select barrels have been chosen from A.J. Hochhalter, Lexington native and creator of the documentary “NEAT: The Story of Bourbon.”

“That is what’s going to make this festival really unique,” Terydin said. “There’s nothing like the bourbon around here. It’s going to make it really feel like we’re in Kentucky. It’s kind of like the icing on the cake for the whole weekend. It takes it from good and makes it great.”

General admission tickets for the weekend are currently going for $120. However, if a festival-goer wants to get the VIP experience, they will get to experience Railbird from air-conditioned lounges and receive access to private bars, luxury restrooms, free parking and fast-track entrances to the festival. Superfecta passes will include all the VIP amenities along with a private pit viewing area and bar, a tour of Keeneland’s grounds, an invite to watch morning workouts and several free food options.

The Railbird Festival will be Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 10-11, at The Grounds at Keeneland. Tickets can be purchased from or any other verified ticket sales website.