The home of the Kentucky Derby will become a stomping ground Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney and other music stars during a three-day festival that organizers hope will become as renowned in music circles as the Run for the Roses is in horse racing, officials said this week.
The “HullabaLOU Music Festival” represents a major venture by a new wholly owned subsidiary of Churchill Downs Inc. that was formed with the goal of making Churchill Downs an industry leader in live entertainment.
“Our goal … will be to make this music festival to the music festival business what the Kentucky Derby is to horse racing,” said Steve Sexton, president of Churchill Downs Entertainment Group.
The event is the latest effort to broaden uses for the historic track and to boost income for the parent company, which owns tracks in Illinois, Florida and Louisiana along with its namesake track in Louisville. Sexton said he would be pleased if the festival could draw up to 30,000 people a day.
Officials have also begun hosting horse races at night as they try to lure more people to the track, and Churchill Downs has also hosted megastars The Rolling Stones and The Police in recent years.
The festival, set for next July 23- 25 at Churchill, will feature more than 65 bands playing everything from classic rock to country to adult contemporary to bluegrass, Sexton said at a news conference at the track.
Five stages will be set up throughout the sprawling 147- acre facility known for its iconic twin spires and the Kentucky Derby is run each May.
Quint Davis, consulting producer of HullabaLOU, said organizers “hit the trifecta” by booking Bon Jovi, Chesney and the Dave Matthews Band as headliners for the festival.
“You can’t set the bar any higher than to create musical magic under the twin spires,” said Davis, producer and director of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, held at the Fair Grounds Race Course, a Churchill Downs Inc.-owned racetrack.
Other musical acts scheduled to appear at HullabaLOU include the Steve Miller Band, Gladys Knight, The Doobie Brothers, Dwight Yoakam, Michael McDonald, Loretta Lynn, Steppenwolf, Kansas, 38 Special, The Black Crowes, Taj Mahal and The O’Jays.
Tickets go on sale Friday, and packages range from $60 for a oneday general admission pass to $975 for a three-day VIP package.
James Wood, president and CEO of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, estimated that the festival could have a $38 million economic impact on the Louisville area.
The festival will come about three weeks after the track’s spring racing meet concludes.
Sexton said the goal is to build Churchill Downs Entertainment Group into an industry leader in live entertainment that won’t be limited to events at Churchillowned venues. Churchill knows how to put on large events as the annual host of the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks.
“We are going to create, we’re going to innovate, we’re going to operate large-scale live events,” he said.