September 19-20 The weekend of September 19-20 lends a picture-perfect autumn backdrop to the 7th Annual Bourbon County Secretariat Festival in historic Paris, Kentucky, honoring the 1973 Triple Crown winner and showcasing the Commonwealth’s pride in its Bluegrass heritage. This year the Secretariat Festival is bigger and better than ever, expanding the schedule of events in Paris over the course of two days, inviting visitors of all ages to the heart of horse country to celebrate its most famous resident.

Pre-Festival activities begin Thursday evening, September 18 at 5:30 pm at the Hopewell Museum in Paris with the Barrel Mane-ia Preview. This  event features the display of select hand-painted Kentucky oak mini-barrels, creatively embellished by regional artists to reflect the area’s spirited heritage and equine culture.

The 2014 Festival activities kick-off in downtown Paris on the afternoon of Friday, September 19th when it proudly hosts the Paris Artwalk. Over 30 shops and venues along Main St. participate in this popular civic event showcasing more than 100 local and regional artists.

Friday, at 6:00 pm Secretariat enthusiasts can enjoy a very special 90 minute event at the future site of the Thoroughbred Breeders Museum with  sports journalist Bill Nack, author of the best-seller “Secretariat, The Making of a Champion” which served as the inspiration for the hit Disney film “SECRETARIAT.”  The acclaimed and entertaining writer will share his favorite stories and personal recollections of the Meadow Stable champ followed by a Q & A discussion. (For those who cannot attend Friday, Mr. Nack will return for an encore presentation at 6:00 pm Saturday evening.) During the course of the Festival weekend the museum will also be exhibiting a collection of Secretariat and equine-related artwork as well as authentic wardrobe items worn by Diane Lane and others in the hit Disney film.

At 9:00 pm, Friday’s Main St. activities continue with the Barrel Mane-ia Party. The lively Festival eve auction party at Oasis Events, which features free admission and adult beverages available for purchase, hosts the spirited bidding of the artistic barrels which benefits equine welfare and local Paris charities. Bourbon connoisseurs will appreciate the collection of Kentucky’s finest whiskeys available for tasting throughout the evening, enhancing their visit to the scenic county which gives the popular libation its name. Adding star power to this event are the bluegrass musical talents of “Arthur and Arthur”, the talented Hancock father/son duo of Stone Farm, acclaimed for racing 1989 Horse of the Year Sunday Silence and owning and breeding 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol.

On Saturday, September 20th, the Festival hits full stride as fans and families travel from across the country gather together to celebrate Secretariat’s legend and legacy. Visitors to the Festival’s Bourbon County Fairgrounds can expect a constant buzz of activity and broad spectrum of talent – both human and equine. Three arenas allow for festival-goers to enjoy equestrian demonstrations and disciplines including, mounted pony races and competition, Friesian, Arabian, and Miniature Horse performances, and Extreme Cowboy exhibition. The Festival is also proud to shine the spotlight on the retired race horse community, honoring former equine athletes who have found success in disciplines.

The Festival’s horse farm tours scheduled throughout the day provide an insider’s view to the Kentucky thoroughbred breeding industry. For those who wish to explore the roots of Secretariat, Claiborne Farm graciously allows the Festival to conduct tours of their historic horse farm where Big Red spent the majority of his life. This prominent thoroughbred breeding operation, now in its 4th generation of ownership by the Hancock Family, provides visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the breeding shed where Secretariat (and five other Triple Crown winners) were conceived, and the actual barn stall where he resided during his stallion years. The opportunity to intimately experience the renowned property also features a visit to Secretariat’s hallowed grave site.

New to the Festival this year will be tours to another Bourbon County premier horse farm, Adena Springs. This esteemed farm has an impressive roster of distinguished stallions including Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, Horse of the Year Ghostzapper, and their newest arrival -  2013 Secretariat “Vox Populi” Award winner, Mucho Macho Man.

The Secretariat Festival celebrity appearance and signing session features an assembly of racing celebrities to rival the First Saturday in May. This marquee event has become a dream destination for autograph seekers of all ages. Headlining the list of celebrity guests expected to attend this grand gathering is Hall of Fame jockey Ron Turcotte and his fellow Triple Crown winning jockeys Jean Cruguet (Seattle Slew) and Steve Cauthen (Affirmed), representing a very rare convergence of the three heralded riders who reached the pinnacle of achievement within the sport. Additionally, crowd favorite Charlie Davis, the Meadow Stable’s genial exercise rider will join the fun. Racing enthusiasts will delight in the opportunity to meet many other luminaries including Kentucky Derby winning jockeys Pat Day, Chris McCarron, and Mike Manganello  -  all affably sharing memories of their racing experiences with each and every fan.

Memorabilia and sports collectors gravitate to the Festival’s Archive Auction featuring a variety of authentic racing artifacts and artwork from the Secretariat archive collection and Claiborne Farm. Highlighting this year’s auction are Claiborne Farm Shadowbox Displays containing authentic hair and worn halters from some of their most popular stallions and a unique assortment of Secretariat-related items.

The Festival’s many vendors feature a wide variety of artists and retailers who bring an assortment of all things Secretariat and other equine and Kentucky-themed products to the gathering. Live entertainment, regional cuisine and children’s events are always a staple of the Festival. Visitors are sure to hear Dale Pyatt and the Chicken Grease Band perform their toe-tapping signature hit “Run, Secretariat, Run” or savor Secretariat Ice Cream from Kentucky’s own artisanal ice cream company, The Comfy Cow. Don’t miss the North American Riding Academy’s “Pony Express” where children (or adults) can receive the first-hand experience and instruction to ride like a jockey on a mechanical horse.

But the Festival activities don’t end late Saturday afternoon, they simply migrate around the corner!  Beginning at 6:00 pm, the inaugural Secretariat Festival Drive-in and Barbecue Picnic will take place at the Bourbon Drive-in Theatre, one of the few remaining drive-ins in the region, just a half mile from the Bourbon County Fairgrounds. this family fun throw-back event featuring a Barbecue supper, 70′s era entertainment, costume contest, vintage car show, and the twilight screening of Disney’s “Secretariat.”  Enjoy this evening under the stars with one of the movie’s stars as actor/jockey Otto Thorwarth who portrays Ron Turcotte in the film will be on hand to meet and greet guests. Transport yourself back to the Secretariat glory days with this unique event.

The Bourbon County Secretariat Festival has it ALL and will continue to grow and share its local charm as an annual fixture on the Kentucky event fall calendar. Make you plans to visit now!!