Railbird: What went wrong?

Posted at 7:12 PM, Aug 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-30 19:25:19-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The festival may be over and cleanup underway but conversations about Railbird are far from over.

After several hiccups and complaints from guests over the weekend, we sought out to uncover what happened.

Josh Huddy created the Twitter account "railbirdlines" while waiting over an hour in line for water on Saturday.

"It started out as a joke, and then, you know, I just kept getting more and more followers," said Huddy.

His twitter quickly became a popular destination for guests to hash out grievances since they couldn't communicate directly with organizers about what was going on.

"The fact that they didn't address it in the moment and send out even just a live update to text people who had signed up and say, 'Hey, we're aware of these situations we are working rectify this'. Instead, they wait and send out their kind of apology, I suppose, until what, eight or nine that night," said Huddy.

Huddy had been to Railbird in 2019. From his observations, he felt it was a similar set up for more than twice the amount of people.

"The overwhelming conversation in line was just how could they have not been prepared for this. Like how do you get this part of it wrong? You know how many people you have; you know how many tickets are sold," said Huddy.

Even though there were changes made for Sunday, Huddy, his friends, and plenty on social media say they will not return.

In their inaugural year in 2019, guests left pleased and excited for the following year.

The Lexington community was thrilled to bring such a successful large-scale outdoor summer event.

So what happened?

Lex 18 tried asking Railbird that question, they declined to do any in-person interviews. Instead, they sent this statement:

"Providing a safe and enjoyable festival experience to our patrons and staff are our top priorities. Day one of Railbird did not live up to our standards. As a result, we collaborated across all of our teams and were pleased with the coordinated response to develop and implement a number of needed and important changes overnight to improve the experience for patrons on the second day of the festival.
These changes included:

Additional water refill stations were placed on festival grounds.
More than 50,000 bottles of water were distributed at several points throughout the festival to attendees.
Every patron was allowed to bring in their own factory-sealed water bottle to the festival, in addition to a reusable bottle to refill.
Changes were made to improve entry processes and concessions operations to move lines more efficiently."

- Railbird Festival organizers

Huddy along with other community members feel attendees deserve more of an explanation.

"If they wanted to rectify this situation with the people who went they're going to need to come out with, you know a little bit more humanity when it comes to a response other than just being like 'hey it didn't live up to our expectations’," said Huddy. "It really was just a bad situation and to have essentially radio silence on the whole situation is very frustrating."

On the other hand, there are some who feel the festival executed what it promised.

Sindicat Dunn of Dunn BBQ feels like overall logistics for vendors went well.

There was an issue with payment for some vendors due to a software glitch, but Railbird says the issue has been addressed. They say all vendors are now paid.

"Coming back off COVID like the first huge real deal festival, you know there were some hiccups, that happened, but they addressed the hiccups I think in a professional manner. One good thing though, I will say about it is that I felt safe, the whole time," said Dunn.

His crew used tents and air blowers to cool off guests while they waited in line for his barbeque and says he hopes they return.

"We make mistakes ourselves so it's how you handle the mistake is how you make it a better person," said Dunn.

We reached out to several local partners for the festival. They all declined to comment, referring us to Railbird organizers instead.