Annual Western Kentucky Events

When thinking about a move to the Kentucky Lake region, one might ask “what kind of events and celebrations typically happen in the area?” 

While this list isn’t exhaustive due to the dozens of traditional happenings throughout the region, we selected a few that highlight the diverse nature of things honored and cherished in western Kentucky.

Our area takes great pride in commemorating its rich cultural identity through a calendar full of lively annual events and festivals. From celebrating signature local cuisines like country ham in Cadiz and barbecue in Paducah, to Benton’s sweet potatoes during Tater Day, the region’s culinary traditions receive plenty of accolades. 

However, the spirit of festivity extends well beyond just food-themed gatherings. Throughout the year, western Kentucky’s small towns and communities host a diverse array of singular celebrations, each one offering its own brand of uncommon pomp and circumstance that reflects the area’s distinctive heritage.

Fancy Farm Picnic

Fancy Farm, Kentucky - Graves County

The Fancy Farm Picnic is a famous annual political event in western Kentucky that dates to 1836 when it began as a church picnic. It takes place the first Saturday of August in the small town of Fancy Farm. While it retains traditional picnic festivities like barbeque, music, and family activities, the main draw is the series of outdoors stump speeches from Democrat and Republican politicians.

These speeches have been known to devolve into a raucous spectacle where the politicians trade exaggerated barbs on each other’s policies in front of thousands of spectators. Despite its partisan antics, the picnic is considered a celebrated and long-running tradition that draws major state and even national political figures annually.

BBQ on the River

Paducah, Kentucky - McCracken County

Held each September along the riverfront in downtown Paducah, BBQ on the River is one of the largest barbecue cooking competitions and festivals in the region. Over the course of the two-day event, professional and amateur pitmasters compete in various barbecue categories, while attendees can sample and purchase barbecue from numerous vendors set up along the Ohio River.

In addition to the barbecue contests and food, BBQ on the River features live music performances on multiple stages, craft beer offerings, and family-friendly activities and entertainment. Attracting tens of thousands of visitors annually, it celebrates Paducah’s culture and cuisine while allowing barbecue enthusiasts to enjoy some of the best smoked and grilled meats prepared by pitmasters from across the nation.

Trigg County Ham Festival

Cadiz, Kentucky - Trigg County

Each October, Trigg County, Kentucky celebrates its signature ham curing and smoking tradition with the Trigg County Ham Festival. The annual event likely features ham curing demonstrations, ham recipe contests, ham tastings from local producers, and a ham-themed parade and carnival.

Visitors can expect to find vendors selling local hams and ham products, as well as live music, entertainment, and activities all revolving around Trigg County’s renowned ham heritage. It allows the region to showcase its culinary claim to fame with a festival full of ham-inspired foods, competitions, and family fun centered on this celebrated cured meat.

Tater Day

Benton, Kentucky - Marshall County

Benton, Kentucky is the place to be on the first Monday of April and the preceding weekend.  Tater Day features a ton of activities everyone can enjoy.  Featuring carnival rides all weekend, helicopter rides, demolition derby, the Tater Day 100 Enduro Race, classic car shows, and of course, the parade.

Going all the way back to 1843, the first Monday in April was designated as Tater Day in Benton, Kentucky.  This annual event is considered the oldest continuous trade day in the United States. What began as an opportunity for area residents to trade goods like guns, knives, ‘coon hounds, livestock, chickens, tobacco, and most notably sweet potato slips for the upcoming growing season, has evolved into a quirky potato-themed festival.

Murray State Homecoming

Murray, Kentucky - Calloway County

Each fall, Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky hosts its annual homecoming weekend, welcoming back alumni to visit their alma mater. The festivities likely include a parade through downtown featuring floats and the marching band, alumni reunion events, a homecoming football game with tailgating, crowning of the homecoming court and other special alumni events.

 It’s a tradition-filled few days that allows former and current Murray State students to reconnect on the campus grounds, attend events showcasing school spirit and pride, and celebrate their ties to the university surrounded by fellow Racers.

World's Biggest Fish Fry

Paris, Tennessee

Just down US 641 into Tennessee, The World’s Biggest Fish Fry is an annual three-day festival held in late April in Paris. It began in 1953 and lives up to its name by frying and serving around 12,000 pounds of catfish filets over the course of the event. While the massive fish fry is the centerpiece, the festival also includes a parade, live music, carnival rides, vendor booths, and other family activities at the fairgrounds and downtown Paris.

Celebrating the culture and heritage of the region, the World’s Biggest Fish Fry typically draws tens of thousands of people annually to Paris to take part in eating the fried catfish and enjoy the other attractions.

For a complete listing of events happening in the Kentucky Lake area, visit Explore Kentucky Lake.

So if you’re considering moving to Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley or anywhere in western Kentucky, rest assured that there is no shortage of fun-filled and unique events throughout the region.

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