For nearly four decades, the Festival of the Horse has celebrated the role of the horse in Kentucky Horse Country, specifically in Kentucky’s Horse Headquarters: Georgetown and Scott County.
Bonnie Neuville has been involved in the festival for many years, including stepping into the role of Grand Marshal. This Georgetownian has been a fan of the festival since its earliest years, and has always loved seeing all the horses it brings out.
“And it gets the community together,” she said. “That’s the most important thing.
This year was to be the 40th anniversary of this three-day event but, like most events planned for 2020, it has been pushed back. Now scheduled for Sept. 10, 11 and 12 of 2021, the festival will take the tried and true elements that have been part of the festival since it began in 1980 – the arts and crafts, local and regional foods, live entertainment, parades, etc. – and amp it up. As live nonstop music takes center stage at the event, headlining artists will dominate on the Country Boy Stage on Courthouse Square and emerging and favorite local and regional musicians will perform throughout Georgetown’s downtown.
Festival facts & figures
For nearly two decades, the Fireman’s Chili Cook-off has kicked off the festival. The event is a fundraiser with proceeds going to Toys For Tots. Not to belabor the curse of 2020, but for the first time in its 18-year history, the cook-off is cancelled this year – although the fireman will still hold a fundraising event. (See Acts of Kindness article.) The Chili Cook-off will be back for 2021, ladles at the ready on Sept. 9.
Signature festival events include the Colt & Filly Review Parade, Toyota’s Grand Parade of Horses and the Horse Show.
The 40th anniversary of the Festival of the Horse in 2021 will coincide with the 31st anniversary of Georgetown’s sister-city relationship with Tahara, Japan. "Combining these events that also play a significant role in our city’s history and character will make this an unforgettable and uniquely Georgetown celebration,” said Mayor Tom Prather. To mark this auspicious occasion, Tahara’s mayor will be the Grand Marshal of Toyota’s Grand Parade of Horses.
The festival will also take place during the 21st year of Yuko-En on the Elkhorn, the Official Kentucky-Japan Friendship Garden, a four-season, five-acre Japanese-style strolling garden planted as an homage to Tahara and Georgetown’s sister-city relationship.
Vintage and beautifully restored rides add a splash of color and a dash of nostalgia, compliments of family-owned Fox Creek Amusement Company. Owner Johnny White locates and buys mint-condition vintage rides, restores them to their former glory days and sets them up at the festival for all to enjoy.
In 2019, 20,000+ visitors, 80+ booths, 150+ horses, 800 to 1,000 gallons of chili, 12 live music entertainment groups and a dozen amusement rides made that year’s celebration the largest in the festival’s history. The 2021 festival will be even bigger. How big? Expect a “huge hoopla,” according to Lori Saunders, executive director of Georgetown/Scott County Tourism – a “celebration on a grand scale,” as County Judge Executive Joe Pat Covington described it.