Bask In The Islands In Louisville’s Backyard

Staff Writer
The Voice-Tribune 

A three-day weekend is hardly enough time to jet off to an island vacation. But, this coming Memorial Day you can experience the Caribbean – without stepping foot outside the Derby City.

Saturday, May 25, through Monday, May 27, the long-running Kentucky Reggae Festival will head to the Louisville Water Tower for three days of soothing, upbeat live music, delicious ethnic food and an exceptional Caribbean vendor market.

The kickoff to the Water Tower Music Series, the Kentucky Reggae Festival has become a popular local Memorial Day Weekend event since beginning in 1991. Festival-goers delight in flavorful dishes, from jerk chicken to beef patties and curry goat, served by the Jamaican Association of Louisville, along with other vendors. “The dirt chicken, plantains, and rice and peas are probably the three most talked about,” said Jennifer Washle, event manager of the Kentucky Reggae Festival and promotions manager at Bisig Impact Group.

Washle estimated an individual can purchase a full meal for just under $9 at the festival. A wide variety of fair food is also available in case you’re feeling picky or less adventurous. In addition to the decadent island fare, attendees also have the chance to purchase unique merchandise, including art, jewelry, T-shirts, bongo drums and incense. “It’s very impressive,” Washle said. “It’s like a small city in there, and it’s great because (the vendors) start showing up Friday night at 5 to check in and by the end, it’s upwards of 50 vendors.” Merchants from all across the U.S. reserve booth space in the Caribbean Market, which has grown each year since 2003.

Of course, the Kentucky Reggae Festival wouldn’t be what it is without the spirited, soul-pleasing sound of reggae music. Slated to perform once again is the crowd-favorite Dem Reggae Bon, who has played the event since its inception. The well-known Anthem Band will also take the stage, along with past performers Zion and the Lion Roots Band, as well as the Arc Band.

“(Like the song) ‘Don’t worry about a thing, everything’s going to be alright,’ that’s just the (vibe) of the festival,” Washle noted. “I think Reggae music is comforting, yet entertaining. There’s tons of dancing going on (at the festival), and we see a lot of the same patrons come all three days.”

While, this year, much of the tried and true can be found at the 22-year-old festival, a few fun-filled additions will be made to the fete’s successful formula. The LandShark Lager bar will provide attendees with a cool environment to relax and refresh with ceiling fans, bar stools and flat screen TVs. The festival has also partnered with Copa Di Vino Wines of “Shark Tank” fame. Founder and owner James Martin and his wife Molli bottle premium wine directly into a glass, resulting in Copa Di Vino, which has the look and feel of glass, but is made of 100 percent recyclable plastic.

The three-day lineup of festivities at the Kentucky Reggae Festival is extremely economical, with general admission priced at $8 before 6 p.m. and $11 after 6 p.m. “It’s very affordable to go as an individual or a group or as a family and spend an entire day,” Washle said.

For this reason, along with fantastic performances, novelty food and an array of fun, the Kentucky Reggae Festival has brought plenty of repeat guests throughout the years and people from all across the region, including Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. “There is nothing like it within probably 300, 400 miles,” said Washle. “We are bringing the islands and the sound of Caribbean music to the Louisville Water Tower, and it’s one-of-a-kind.”

The Kentucky Reggae Festival will be held May 25-27 at the Louisville Water Tower, 3005 River Road. Gates will be open 2 to 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday; 1 to 7 p.m. Monday. Admission is $8 before 6 p.m. and $11 after 6 p.m. Kids 10 and under are free. Parking at the Louisville Water Tower is free as well. No outside food, drinks, pets or tents are allowed. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.

For more information, visit, call 502.583.0333 or e-mail You can also find information on Facebook at “Kentucky Reggae Festival.”

Courtesy Photos.