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Fort Harrod Beef Festival: A Celebration of Beef in Kentucky's Oldest City

Harrodsburg, Kentucky, is an ideal vacation destination due to its rich history and beautiful natural scenery. Widely considered to be Kentucky's first town, Harrodsburg was planned and founded in 1774, when James Harrod and his expedition settled in the area. Harrodsburg didn’t make a name for itself as a tourist destination until the early-to-mid 19th Century, when mineral springs were discovered near the town. Spas, attractions and infrastructure to support tourists quickly popped up as people traveled from far and wide to enjoy the mineral springs.  Many world class resorts were built in and around the growing town during this time of massive growth. Some of these unique resorts still operate today and others are preserved historical sites that you can visit.


Today, Harrodsburg is a can't-miss destination. You’ll find one of most comprehensive collections of preserved homes, businesses and landmarks right in town. The pride the community takes in the preservation and upkeep of the town is impressive. The entire Main Street area was fully restored, including all the shops, restaurants, public areas and other buildings. It is the quintessential American Main Street, just waiting for you to explore and enjoy all its splendor. The shops themselves sell a variety of items from unique art to rare antiques. Restaurants and diners in the area serve up a spectrum of delicious meals for you to enjoy. The natural surroundings are lush and filled with a diverse collection of wildlife and vegetation. The local parks are great for just about any outdoor activity you can conjure up. You’d be hard pressed to find this amount of historical preservation and stunning natural beauty in other locations.


One of the top ways to experience the community and get to know its people is during one of the big local events like the Fort Harrod Beef Festival. Now entering its 11th year, the festival has been a highly anticipated local gathering for years. Each year, roughly 3,000 people from the community, surrounding towns, and the entire region head to Harrodsburg for this unique celebration of all things beef. From a 5k Run/Poke Along to cooking demonstrations by some of Kentucky’s top chefs, this festival has something for everyone. Are you traveling with your kids? If so, this is the festival for you thanks to a Kids Carnival loaded with games and activities. If you're looking for a complete vacation experience, let Harrodsburg and the Fort Harrod Beef Festival be your destination. We interviewed Linda McClanahan, Representative for the Fort Harrod Beef Festival, to talk about this fun and unique festival.


RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.

LM: We are proudly entering the 11th year of our festival. We usually attract around 3,000 people to the event and this year we are expecting roughly the same. When it comes to who our crowd is comprised of, we see a variety of people. It’s a mix of patrons due to the fact that we try to have activities for all different age groups. We encourage everyone to come down and join us in all the fun festivities!


RAL: What makes this event unique?

LM: There are a lot of factors that make our event unique. First and foremost the entire focus of this event is beef. From the activities to the exhibitions, there is a definite beef theme. Also, the event gives attendees the chance to meet new people. It’s perfect for a day trip with the family or a fun weekend vacation.


RAL: Take me through a typical day at the event.

LM: We have plenty of fun activities for all our attendees to enjoy. The Cruise In is a classic car show where people can bring their vintage rides and show them off to the crowd. We have cooking demonstrations from some of Kentucky’s top chefs. There is the ever popular Miss Beef Festival Pageant that will crown winners from four different age brackets. The Grill Off pits teams of gilling competitors in amateur and professional divisions (yes, you can sample the delicious competition food). The Wine and Cheese tasting event takes some of the best cheese and wine makers from the entire state and puts them in one place for you to sample and enjoy. We have the 5k Run/Poke Along, which is always a popular activity. There will be a multitude of art and craft vendors on hand selling some great handmade art that you won't find anywhere else. We also have a Kids Carnival packed full of fun games and activities that your youngsters will love.


RAL: What can an attendee expect to find for local lodging?

LM: We have a multitude of local lodging options that are great for all budgets and group sizes. The best local option is Beaumont Inn or Bright Leaf Golf Resort. There are also a couple chain hotels like Days Inn and Country Hearth Inn.


RAL: Does the festival drive business to your local economy?

LM: Yes it certainly does. People who are visitors to the community will need lodging, meals, supplies and more. They are spending money at our local businesses which is welcomed by almost every business owner in town.  


RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?

LM: Yes, some of the profits from our activities go to support Lions Club and Heart of Kentucky United Way.

For more information about the Fort Harrod Beef Festival, please visit their website.