The end of Summer in Louisville always excites me for those chill nostalgic vibes at Big Four Arts Festival. It is a family fest on the river that reminds me of the home-grown art festivals I loved as a kid. The Festival is happening the weekend after Labor Day in September!
Hello to all my lovely readers!
This past weekend, our family had the delightful opportunity to attend the Big Four Bridge Arts Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. If you’ve never been, let me tell you, it’s a must-visit for families, art enthusiasts, and anyone looking to soak in the vibrant culture of Louisville. Here’s a little rundown of our day and some tips if you’re planning to go this September.
Stepping onto the grounds of the Big 4 Bridge Arts Festival is like taking a dip into another time. The art and artists are approachable and affordable. The gentle breeze from the river carries with it not just a refreshing coolness, but also a wave of chill nostalgia woven with bluegrass music. As I wandered through the booths, the ambiance reminded me of those home-grown art festivals from my childhood— not too crowded, not to hot, and nothing looked like it was mass-produced or an MLM. As we drifted down each aisle, every piece told a story, every artist had a passion, and every visitor became part of a larger tapestry of shared memories from our community. Real food, not just fried junk on a stick, fun hands-on activities for the kids that are not just more sponsor printed promos or plastic crap and an old school but definitely well-loved and well-managed petting zoo all on thick cool Kentucky bluegrass lawns. It felt like what I remember festivals being when I was a kid. Over the years, I had begun to start falling out of love with the hot pavement art fairs filled with either overpriced junk or haute couture I could never afford. The Big Four avoids all the pitfalls of the modern art fair and has completely revived my love of a good community festival.
Arrival and First Impressions
As we approached the Big Four Bridge, the first thing that caught our eyes was the cozy array of tents and stalls, all under a shady copse of trees and the shadow of the bridge. The bridge itself, with its iconic structure, served as a magnificent backdrop to the festival and the kids got a huge thrill from seeing walking up the path to see the festival from above. Hubby was of course immediately drawn to the food trucks and kettle corn and munched the whole way through the fest.
From handcrafted jewelry to intricate paintings, the variety of art on display was truly impressive. Local artists showcased their talents, and it was a joy to see the community come together to support them. They also had many national and international artists with surprisingly affordable items. We even picked up a few pieces for our home – a beautiful horse-themed ceramic vase and a hand-painted wooden sign that reads, “If you think my home is messy, you should see inside my head.” We came dangerously close to also picking up a 4’ tall metal dinosaur for the yard but got the artist’s business card, so we could follow up later with a good time to pick it up directly from the artist’s studio which, not gonna lie, I am low-key hyped about seeing anyhow. We actually made quite a few new local artists friends just by being at the festival and talking with local artists at their booths.
One of the things I appreciated most about the festival was the abundance of kid-friendly activities. There was a dedicated kids’ zone with painting rocks, a farm animal petting zoo with some very friendly pink llamas, and some really unique art and crafts stations that were fun but not too messy. Our little ones spent a good hour there, creating their own mini masterpieces, and went back through several times after to check in on the animals at the petting zoo.
Food and Refreshments
No festival is complete without delicious food, and the Big Four Bridge Arts Festival did not disappoint. From gourmet food trucks serving up everything from BBQ to vegan delights, to stalls with homemade lemonade and ice cream, our taste buds were in heaven. We indulged in some local delicacies and enjoyed a picnic by the riverside. I had a crabcake which was light and crisp. Hubs had a gourmet burger with mac and cheese, and the kids each had a generous helping of fries. The prices were surprisingly not bad. There were no $20 corn dogs like we have seen elsewhere, just the normal food truck prices you see anywhere. So that was nice. To finish it off, we each got real fruit ice pop from a vendor cart, and I got to tick the mental mom-guilt-box of ‘feed them something healthy or natural’ off my list for the day. (Ugh, I know, sugar, but it still kind of felt like a win, so I’m going to take it for today.)
Throughout the day, the stage featured live performances and the event was filled with artist demos and performers. From every corner of the festival, you could hear melodic wind chimes, soft dulcimer toung drum players and across the lawn was an all-day long line up local bands playing folk and bluegrass tunes. It was never loud or over stimulating for any of the kiddos, though so I have to give them props for creating a layout that really cut down on the cacophony that can happen at some festivals. The trees seemed to play a big part in helping to keep a surprisingly busy festival feeling calm and not too noisy. There were also numerous artists performing their craft, we saw a corn broom being made, a gourd carver, a sink dying table, painters, fiber artists sewing and knitting, and even a beekeeper showing off sample honeycombs where we purchased a bottle of bourbon infused honey. It is cliche to say it in a blog like this, but there really was never a dull moment. After we had wandered all the booths, we eventually found a cozy spot on the grass and let the cool Ohio breeze wash over us as the sun set while we snaked on our festival loot and listened to bluegrass.
Tips for Future Visitors
- Arrive Early: Parking was actually really easy, we snagged a good spot from the miles of free on-street parking, and my mother-in-law parked in a pay lot for under $10 that was practically at the festival. The park is very ADA-friendly, so it was easy and low stress getting in.
- Bring $5 bills: The festival is a fundraiser for local healthcare group Brigehaven, and they take $5 at the entrance for adult entry to benefit the cause. Kids are free, (Thank you!) and they even offer free tickets for those in need (gotta request them in advance) so that is super nice to know! They do take cards, but cash is just so much faster and easier.
- Wear Comfortable Shoes: There’s a lot of walking to be done, so make sure you and the kids have comfy footwear. Some of the paths and paved and some are grass so leave the high heels at home.
- Stay Hydrated: Kentucky September is usually pretty moderate, but all the walking can dry you out! Bring along water bottles because it’s just a good idea. Or pick one up there.
- Support Local Artists: This is a great opportunity to buy unique gifts and support the local art community. Budget accordingly!
- Take Pictures: The setting, especially during sunset, is absolutely picturesque. Don’t forget to snag a few selfies in front of the bridge and from up on top of the walking bridge too. I seriously cannot oversell how beautiful and interesting that view is from up there.
- Pack a Beach Towel: The view, music, and food are going to make you want to settle in a for a bit and just enjoy the great lawn. We ended up buying a cool reed rug from an artist’s booth and sat on it for several hours just enjoying the evening while the kids ran around playing under the bridge. The Festival had some serious chill vibes, and I’m glad we took the time to stick around and soak it in.
Our day at the Big Four Bridge Arts Festival was nothing short of magical. It was a day filled with art, music, food, and family fun. If you’re in or around Louisville next year, I highly recommend making a trip. It’s a beautiful way to experience the heart and soul of the city.
Until next time, happy adventuring!
I’m a local writer, artist, plant lover, but sometimes not so green thumb and transplant to the lovely Bluegrass state and Derby City. I love working with local photographers to capture the life and story of our vibrant community and share it with the world. When I am not trekking though the city on a missing to find all of its best kept secrets, I can be found working in my digital art studio, which is sometime my bed because I may not always have spoons, but I always have inspiration.