How about a little music in the Moonlight?
The second-annual Moonlight Festival returns to downtown Somerset this Saturday, and with it a full day of live musical performances on the large stage down on the Fountain Square.
In the days leading up to the event, however, there’s been one late change — musical act The Barefoot Movement out of Nashville had to be scratched from the line-up.
“They let me know one of them had been exposed to someone around COVID-19 and didn’t feel comfortable (traveling to Somerset for the event),” said Leslie Ikerd, City of Somerset Tourism Director. “We appreciated the fact that they were respectful.”
Fortunately, Somerset had a back-up plan: Violet Bell. The Chapel Hill, NC Americana duo of Lizzy Ross and Omar Ruiz-Lopez will be stepping into the roster and Ikerd is excited to have them.
“They’re really cool,” said Ikerd. “They’ll give a very chill vibe for the festival.”
Planning the festival was a bit of a “whirlwind,” said Ikerd — “We normally have three months to plan each festival, this time we had a month” — but Ikerd had already started contacting bands before the COVID-19 situation.
It’s been hard to plan things out, and two earlier 2020 festivals in downtown Somerset — Foodstock and the Derby-themed event were cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. But “about a month ago (Mayor Alan Keck) decided it was time, that we could do (an outdoor festival safely,” said Ikerd, noting the success with summer attractions like Somernites Cruise and the SomerSplash Water Park. “From a mental health, normalcy (standpoint) it felt like we were ready to do so.”
The line-up of music Saturday in downtown Somerset will be as follows:
11 a.m. Max Power
12:15 p.m. Violet Bell
2 p.m. Everette
3:45 p.m. Eric Bolander Music
5:45 p.m. The War and Treaty
7:30 p.m. Drake White and The Big Fire
Regarding the artists, Ikerd said they’re excited to have the two names at the top of the bill, Drake White and The War and Treaty. Ikerd called White “a country artist, but very soulful.” She’s also a big fan of The War and Treaty, the last band to perform on stage at Master Musicians Festival in Somerset before it was rained out in 2019 and the 2020 show was cancelled.
“I was there when the storm broke out; they’re one of my favorite bands,” said Ikerd. “I was so disappointed they didn’t get to finish their set, and thought, ‘How great would it be to bring them back?’”
Everette is a Kentucky duo that’s toured around the state for several years, playing college campuses and getting bigger and bigger; they have a new album out, “Kings of the Dairy Queen Parking Lot — Side A.” Eric Bolander is well-known for Master Musicians Festival Fans, and local group Max Power won last year’s busking competition in Somerset and so “it seemed appropriate for them to take the bigger stage this fall,” said Ikerd.
The city came up with a plan to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the event. Instead of one entrance, there will be five spread out, and spread out bathroom facilities as well. A pink bracelet allows one to drink alcohol and costs $5, a blue one is general admission and its free. COVID-19 prevention information will be gathered when one enters.
Spirits and bourbon are a big part of the Moonlight Festival theme. Last year, Evan Williams, a Kentucky bourbon distillery, sponsored the whole shebang in 2019, with six brewers and three wineries on hand to let the public get a little warm and toasty on a crisp October evening. This year, Horse Soldier Bourbon is the title sponsor.
“Last year, we flew (Horse Soldier’s owners) in and wanted to pitch Somerset to them. They fell in love with everyone here and talked about how nice everyone was,” said Ikerd. “They said, ‘We should come here. This is a cool place.’”
Indeed, a few months later, it was announced that Horse Soldier would be locating their distillery here in Pulaski County, and as such it feels right for them to lead the charge in sponsoring this year’s event. There’s an artistic component to this story too; last year, local artists painted bourbon barrels on the sidewalk as part of the festival.
This year, they’ll be painting lids, specifically — in an effort to track and tell Somerset’s “SomerSpirit” story, said Ikerd.
“I thought as we go through history, I kind of wanted to catalogue our story, as to when things started changing, and tell the story through the artists,” said Ikerd. “It will be a consistent umbrella carrying through other festivals.
“We’re really excited about or title sponsor,” she added, “and excited about the opportunity to tell the Somerset story in different ways to our visitors and the community.”