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Party at the Moontower

By Tom Wilmes |

Lexington's homegrown music fest ups the wattage with big-name acts while celebrating the local with laid-back day of fun.

In the late 1800s, small towns might erect a moontower—a tall structure with an array of lights at the top—to illuminate a wide area when street lights weren't practical. As we learned from Dazed and Confused, a moontower also makes a great place to party.


Both connotations come into play with the Moontower Music Festival, held from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. August 26, 2017 at Masterson Station Park in Lexington. The festival, now in its fourth year, is a shining beacon that attracts folks from miles around, and highlights the best in local food, music and art. It's also kick-ass party and everyone is coming.

"We hope that it reflects the kind of excitement you felt in high school when something big was going on," says event co-organizer David Helmers. "When your 17 years old and there's an event going on like a party at the moontower—there's no place you'd rather be."


Which is exactly what event founder Kaelyn Query set out to create when she hosted the first Moontower Music Festival in 2014. It was mostly local bands, local food, local drinks and a local crowd. And, although the festival has grown substantially over the years, that same feeling remains, only more so.


"For us it's all about having a good time," Query says. "It's more of a relax-by-the-river-and-have-a-beer kind of vibe. Bring your friends, bring your dog and just have fun."

Moontower is about as laid-back and inclusive as it comes. Kids ages 12 and younger are admitted free with a ticketed adult, and folks can bring in blankets, lawn chairs, small canopy tents, hammocks, Frisbees and well-behaved dogs on a leash—just about anything they'll need to kick-back for a day of fun and music.


Speaking of music, this year 14 bands will perform on two side-by-side stages, providing nearly continuous entertainment throughout the day. Five new additions to the lineup were announced today—Benjamin Booker, The Record Company, Elise Davis, Warren Byrom and Fabled Canelands, and the Debraun Thomas Trio—joining a bill that includes Cherub, JJ Grey and Mofro, Todd Snider and Great American Taxi, Big Sam's Funky Nation, Tyler Childers and Vita and the Woolf. More bands will be announced soon. Check out Benjamin Booker's "Witness", used in the video below, for a sample.

It's an eclectic lineup spanning many genres and locales, with the singular goal of providing great music and perhaps a chance for music fans to find their next favorite artist.


"It's like what Louis Armstrong said, 'There are two kinds of music—good music and bad music," says Helmers. "We only offer the first kind.


The festival is also partnering with the University of Kentucky Art Museum, which will curate and install a pop-up art museum exhibiting music-related works. Students from UK's College of Architecture will also design and construct a temporary moontower art installation.


A revamped food pavilion will feature a fleet of local food trucks and vendors—about 20 in all—serving up everything from Cajun food and pizza to chicken, chili and gourmet popsicles. West Sixth Brewing and Rhinegeist will provide plenty of cold canned beer for sale, along with areas serving Kentucky bourbon and Kentucky-made wine.


Despite an increase in the caliber or talent and other offerings, ticket prices for this year's Moontower Music Festival are slightly lower than last year. General admission tickets are $39, while VIP tickets are $75 and include a private entrance, lounge, restrooms and viewing area. Bus passes to and from the festival can be purchased for an additional $5. Visit for tickets and information.


"We've tried to make it all about the people and put ourselves in ticketholder's shoes," Query says. "There's no $18 beer or $20 parking. We just want people to come out and have a good time. It's about the community more than anything else."


Photos courtesy of Moontower Music Festival. Follow them on Facebook for the latest.


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