The 2019 W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival will be here June 12-15! This large and free festival attracts visitors from all over the world to experience rhythm and blues. Before you attend, here are some fun facts and tips to help you enjoy the festival. Download the free festival guide now!
1. W. C. Handy discovered his nature in Henderson, Kentucky
Similarly to legendary naturalist John James Audubon, William Christopher Handy found his true calling and passion in Henderson. Handy spent nearly a decade in Henderson and wrote in his autobiography, “I didn’t write any songs in Henderson, but it was there I realized that experiences I had had, things I had seen and heard could be set down in a kind of music characteristic of my race. There I learned to appreciate the music of my people…then the blues were born, because from that day on, I started thinking about putting my own experience down in that particular kind of music.”
2. Lunch breaks & happy hours start early
While the live music at Audubon Mill Park begins Wednesday, June 12, lunch breaks and happy hours begin earlier in the week on Monday, June 10 and continue through Thursday. You can experience live music and delicious food at a number of places located in downtown Henderson. Make sure you don’t miss the main dining event (and festival fundraiser), the Red Beans & Rice Zydeco Night on Thursday!
3. Blues roots run deep
We kick off the final day of the festival, Saturday, in true New Orleans fashion: with a second line parade! The William Branaman Street Strut People’s Parade is open to all who are unafraid to show a little sass and strut their stuff. Paraders, who often have a long history of participating in the parade, march through the streets of downtown Henderson to the beat of a live jazz band, showcasing heavily decorated umbrellas and festive outfits. Check the festival guide for details on the kids umbrella workshop!
4. Stay in Henderson
To avoid bridge traffic, and to receive the full authentic experience, make sure to stay in Henderson. Multiple hotels are located just a 10 minute drive from the festival. For a unique experience stay at one of the local Bed & Breakfasts, camp at John James Audubon State Park, or lodge in one of the cozy cabins at the state park. For more information about lodging in Henderson click here.
5. Festival grounds conveniently located
Along with the free festival comes free two hour parking. Parking is free after 5 p.m. and all day on weekends! There are several local restaurants nearby the festival, along with food vendors. Downtown shops including LuciaSoapEtc LLC, J’Petals, and Simon’s Shoes, parks, and attractions, such as the riverfront fountains, are all within walking distance of the festival as well.
6. Festival tips & guidelines
Essentials to your packing list include portable chairs, sunscreen, blankets, rain gear, and all of your family and friends! Pets, coolers, and alcohol are not allowed in the park. There is a beer garden located at the festival. Although smoking is not prohibited at the festival, we are big believers in the golden rule – be considerate of your those around you before smoking. Weather statement: Handy Blues Fest is a rain or shine event! The outdoor festival will operate as long as there is no severe weather threat. In case of inclement weather, you can find the most up-to-date alerts on the festival’s Facebook page.
Most importantly, enjoy your time at one of the nation’s largest free music festivals! Share your festival photos with us on social media using #HandyBluesFest and #HendersonKy!