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Kentucky's oldest festival kicks off in Mt. Sterling, drawing hundreds to town

Posted at 5:43 PM, Oct 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-15 17:43:47-04

MOUNT STERLING, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky’s oldest running festival is back in Montgomery County after being canceled last year due to the pandemic.

October Court Days date back to 1794 when a Circuit Judge would go to town to try criminals and people from all over Eastern Kentucky would follow to sell and trade goods.

The annual tradition continues to bring thousands of people to Mount Sterling.

“Usually if you try to pull a basket or anything down one of these streets, you have trouble because it's so packed with the people, especially later in the day,” said Judy Herbert, who participates in the event every year.

Hundreds of vendors set up booths during the four-day festival. They sell everything from handmade crafts and antiques, to clothes and food.

Mount Sterling native Greg Manning sets up a booth most years. This year he is selling acrylic paintings.

“I always wanted to learn how to paint,” he said. “I used to sell a lot of knives and pocket knives down on the other end of Court Days many, many years ago.”

He said sharing his passions with new people is why he sets up year after year.

Sweet Peas Southern owner Nikki Bryant said she grew up attending the festival, but this is her first year selling her handmade home decor at the event.

“It’s been a nice turnout already,” she said. “We’ve sold a lot of stuff.”

The City of Mt. Sterling canceled the event in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Simply Rose and Company owner Rose Pidgorodetska said the cancelation was hard on her business during an already financially challenging year, but they pulled through and are planning to take full advantage of the weekend.

“We are so excited just to be able to see our customers from two years ago and just promote our small business,” Pidgorodetska said.

A rainy weather forecast for the weekend threatens to affect event turnout, but after a year off, vendors say they’re ready for anything.

“We came prepared. We’ve got our tarps up for all the rain and I think all the other vendors do as well. Hopefully, the rain won’t keep people from coming out,” said Laken Ford, who sells handmade wooden crafts.

October Court Days is taking place in downtown Mt. Sterling from Oct. 15-18.