Last summer, Louisville, like the rest of the world, was basically shut down, with all of our favorite places and events in hibernation due to a deadly virus. This summer, we’re slowly starting to see things normalize, with more action throughout the city. Gatherings still aren’t quite like they used to be, but there are currently places to go and events to enjoy. Here is what we’ll be doing this summer.
Last year took a lot of our joy. The summer came and went as we saw COVID numbers tick up and people around us get sick. This coming summer already feels a lot less heavy. People have grown used to masking, and now that many have gotten vaccinated and feel safer, the tentative smiles of humanity emerging from its extended cocooning are encouraging. I’m ready to reclaim my place in the outdoor world in a big way. From road trips and plane rides, to simple hometown pleasures, but the thing I’m most looking forward to in my Louisville summer are the weekend outdoor markets. I love the fresh flowers, produce, vintage randomness, jewelry, food, people, pets, kids dripping sticky ice cream… I love everything about the summer market season, and I cannot wait to strap on my Teva knock-offs and hit every one. I’ve already managed to catch a Flea Off Market and scored a lovely silver, turquoise ring. I don’t need more houseplants, but when I see them at the markets, you’ll find me looking — trying to figure out where I can wedge another one in the jungle I grew last year. If 2020 taught me one thing, it’s that street food tastes better on the street, and I’m definitely happy that the food trucks will have a hot, fly-infested line for me to wait in. If I am grinning goofily in your direction, grin back. We survived and the summer markets are a time to celebrate! —Erica Rucker
The pandemic made me realize how spoiled this city was with live music. Before COVID, probably about five days a week, there was a quality concert somewhere, oftentimes several stacked on the same night. Sometimes that was a megastar in an arena, sometimes it was a nationally-touring band in a midsize room, sometimes it was one of the dozens of talented local bands at a beloved small space. Point is, there were plenty of concerts. Then, in a matter of a couple days in March 2020, they all went away. Currently, outdoor concerts are trickling out all over the city, with a few stages on the river (see the music section for more details) and at places like Headliners Music Hall. Indoor concerts aren’t back to normal, but you’ll find some scattered around, and touring bands are starting to warm up to the idea of getting back on the road. Right now, I’ll take what I can get. I saw my first show last month, and seeing the energy of live music again — and how bands and crowds feed off of each other — was a much needed experience. I won’t take it for granted again. —Scott Recker
The Kentucky State Fair
I’m looking forward to the return of the Kentucky State Fair. Nowhere is eating corndogs and cotton candy so accepted — rather, expected — and I look forward to enjoying two years’ worth. On the other hand, I’m not looking forward to consuming any Krispy Kreme doughnut burgers, fried Twinkies or other remorse-filled delicacies, but I’m excited to see what they’ve come up with this year. There’s a chance I’d even get frisky enough to check out one of the Texas Roadhouse Concert Series shows… thinking Ginuwine (Friday, Aug. 20) or, perhaps, Louisville’s own White Reaper (Friday, Aug. 27). Mostly, I’m looking forward to all the animals — the cows, goats, pigs, sheep, even the rabbits. I really hope the little ducklings are back on their slide-swim-climb-slide thing. I know… I know… “That will be the closest any Yarmuth ever gets to farm animals.” And you’re probably correct. But this will be the first Kentucky State Fair that my 2-year-old son will be able to attend, and he will FREAK OUT at all these critters. In fact, one of his favorite books is just “Farm Animals.” So, I’m looking forward to the opportunity to take him to meet all his animal buddies, and get into some junk food — including the leftovers from his Krispy Kreme doughnut burger and fried Twinkies. —Aaron Yarmuth
Blockbuster Movie Season
Every summer, I anxiously await every tentpole franchise movie. While I enjoy arthouse movies, by and large I gravitate toward anything where punching a villain square in the face is the ideal solution to any problem. I could wax poetic about superhero movies or anything where Vin Diesel needs a car to fight terrorism, but the long and the short of it is that these are the worlds I want to live in. It’s not the sensationalistic violence or CGI that pull me in, but the idea that there are bad people out there who get their proper comeuppance, a luxury that we rarely get to experience in the real world. And there are few places better to accommodate my fantasies than Baxter Avenue Theatres. While Baxter is a smaller venue, the seats are cozy and the bar is usually staffed and stocked with the kinds of things I like to drink. The lines are seldom long, so I can run in, snag a drink, and go straight to the restrooms during the slower bits, as needed. I usually say that I don’t want any food but then eat handfuls of my wife’s popcorn. Did I mention that their concessions are excellent? Because they are. On top of that, Baxter is located in the Highlands, my all-time favorite neighborhood, which hosts some of the best restaurants in the city. Baxter is a solid date night and one that was sorely missed, stuck in the house with two young, but lovely kids for a year, and I’m excited to get back to it. —Syd Bishop
When I was a kid, I thought that sports were for other people — definitely not for me. I was very much a capital-N Nerd, a judgy bookworm who read voraciously and eschewed almost any type of competitive fun other than Quick Recall. Physical sports, I thought, were silly, not intellectual. Thankfully, I’ve wised up since then, and I’ve come to realize something important: I fucking love sports. I love photographing them, I love watching them up close, and I love cheering for my home teams, even from thousands of miles away. In fact, in my now-favorite sport, hockey, what I love most isn’t even the gameplay –– it’s the fights. Allowing myself to enjoy something so raw and so spontaneous, especially in a crowd, was a huge step for me; it made me feel connected both to the team community and the larger community of sports fans. No kidding, it made me feel more like a person. Going to so many different kinds of games and sporting events over the last few months has always made me feel the same way. Being together with thousands of people, shouting, waving signs — all those things force you to be present in the moment. They’re a fantastic cure for the solipsism that quarantine forced us into in 2020. This summer, I’m most looking forward to sports coming back in a big way, as long as it’s safe to do so. I want to bring the city back to that amazing feeling, the sense of conquering something together, even if it’s just another team. We’ve all been spending our last 15 months trying to cure COVID. We deserve the chance to cure our sense of isolation, one goal and home run at a time. — Carolyn Brown