LEXINGTON, Ky. — Lexington’s biggest community culinary party of the year is back for its seventh season, as the Crave food + music festival sweeps into the Bluegrass Fairgrounds at Masterson Station Park on August 24-25. More than 50 local and regional restaurants, food trucks and additional vendors are slated to take part in the family-friendly weekend-long celebration of the area’s diverse and flourishing food and music scene.
“There is room at the table for everyone at Crave,” said festival co-director Theresa Stanley. “With a head-spinning mix of longtime favorite eateries, popular new hotspots, farm-fresh local delicacies and creative global cuisines, Crave has blossomed into Central Kentucky’s premier food and music celebration. It’s a can’t-miss experience.”
Sponsored by One Holland, the Kentucky-based restaurant group that owns LaRosa’s Family Pizzeria, Skyline Chili and First Watch: The Daytime Cafè, the two-day festival offers plenty of opportunities for culinary exploration. Participating restaurants and food vendors will be serving up a specially curated array of entrees and samplings at convenient price points ranging from $2 to $5. New additions to the festival’s roster of participating food establishments include Oscar Diggs, Bonefish Grill and Drake’s. They will join perennial Crave food favorites such as Athenian Grill, Azur and Texas de Brazil, to name a few.
Festival-goers will have a new opportunity to work up an appetite this year, by participating in the inaugural Crave Dash & Dine 5K on Saturday, August 24, at 7 p.m. The event, which benefits local charities On The Move Art Studio and Greenhouse 17, will include a chip-timed 5K run/walk, along with a noncompetitive “Foodie Fun Mile” option. All Dash & Dine participants will also receive free admission for both Saturday and Sunday, along with commemorative race T-shirts and awards for top finishers. Participants can sign up for the race at runsignup.com/Race/KY/Lexington/CraveDashDine5K.
While food is at the core of the Crave tradition, the festival also features a range of amusements for attendees of all ages. The Crave Classic Car show returns, with a new line-up of classic vehicles scheduled to roll in each day. The Live Green Lexington Kids’ tent, sponsored by Lexington’s Department of Environmental Quality and Public Works, will entertain kids of all ages with a festival-wide scavenger hunt, corn-hole, recycling and urban forestry games. Creative, young festival-goers will also have the chance to paint recycled political signs into “slow down” reminders and other safe-streets messaging points, thanks to a partnership with Live Green Lexington and On the Move Studio.
This year’s Crave Kitchen Stage, emceed by local TV host and Wild Thyme Cooking owner and chef Allison Davis, will feature a full schedule of live food demonstrations and head-to-head cooking competitions, including the annual Crave Local Hemp Foods Cook-off, Bluegrass Burger Battle and Bourbon Through Bluegrass with Bernie Lubbers, whiskey ambassador for Heaven Hill Distilleries, featuring a tasting with the expert and bluegrass music.
Crave also serves up a variety of craft beers, cocktails and wine selections again this year to accompany the weekend’s dining delights. Heaven Hill Brands with Elijah Craig, Evan Williams Bourbon, Lunazul Tequila, and Deep Eddy Vodkas will provide refreshing cocktails, and Clark Distributing returns with classic brews from West Sixth Brewing, as well as its Cerveza Craft Beer. Both White Claw Hard Seltzer and Angry Orchard Rosè Hard Cider will be available in cans as well.
The festival’s Crave bar tents will accept cash and credit, in addition to festival Crave Bucks. Crave Bucks – available to purchase in the festival grounds, or in advance pre-sale packages – are the only payment method accepted for all food purchases and at the beer can stations.
In partnership with University of Kentucky’s student-run station WRFL 88.1 FM, the festival will feature two full days of live music from the region, covering genres from psychedelic rock, bluegrass and Americana to soul, funk and folk, with a bevy of other musical pit stops in between. Performers on this year’s WRFL Music Stage include local artists Joslyn & the Sweet Compression, Bear Medicine, Wayne Graham, Letters of Acceptance, Blind Corn Liquor Pickers, People Planet and Lee Carroll’s Ethos Jazz Quintet. Americana sweetheart Coralee Wilson will return to Lexington from Nashville for a hometown reunion show with her band Coralee & the Townies. Crave will also welcome the funky 9-piece Afro-beat-inspired brass band Ernie Johnson From Detroit (actually from Cincinnati), surf-inspired psychedelic rock trio Holy Mountain Top Removers (from Nashville), and the Louisville-based band Roadie, which creates idyllic indie rock perfectly suited for the great outdoors. The final addition to the lineup will be announced Aug. 11, following the band’s performance at another local music festival.
Listen to a Spotify playlist of the Crave music lineup below.
Crave, which was launched in 2013 as a small, grassroots celebration of local fare at MoonDance Amphitheatre, has grown into a rich and multifaceted showcase of tastes and talents from across the region. The event draws more than 23,000 attendees annually.
“There has never been a better time for anyone who appreciates great local food and live entertainment in Lexington,” said Amy Eddie, festival co-director. “The community’s support and appreciation for Crave over the past six years has been overwhelming, and our local restaurants and musical acts continue to view it as an opportunity to showcase their best for the city. With so many creative chefs serving up affordable delights from every cuisine and talented musicians from every genre, along with great family entertainment, craft cocktails and local beers, the hardest part is fitting it all into one amazing weekend.”
Crave is founded and produced by Smiley Pete Publishing, an independent, Lexington-based publishing company that produces the local publications Chevy Chaser Magazine, Southsider Magazine, Business Lexington and the website tadoo.com, as well as various events throughout the year, including Lexington Burger Week, Lexington Pizza Week, Crave Taco Week and Bluegrass BBQ Fest.