Writer / Deana Karem, President and CEO, Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce
The Gaslight Festival is back this year and promises to be better than ever. This annual tradition has been a part of the canvas of events in greater Louisville for as long as I can remember. This is our “COVID comeback” community celebration. It is an opportunity to bring people together. It offers us a sense of tradition, and an opportunity to see friends again.
As I reflect on the Gaslight Festival, I appreciate the history it offers, and I look forward to offering new features and seeing people gather in our Gaslight Square.
For 52 years the Gaslight Festival has kicked off the fall season in Jeffersontown. Business and community leaders like Jack Durrett and former Mayor Dan Ruckriegel initiated the event as a small street festival in 1969 through the leadership of the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce. It was an opportunity to showcase businesses and celebrate the city, while bringing families and friends together.
At first the Gaslight Festival was held in a limited space, in an area we know today as the Gaslight Square. It offered booths, children’s activities, food and music. Throughout the years it quickly grew to become one of the top-five festivals in the region, and one of the top-20 festivals in the southeast. It has been recognized as a premier festival event by our peer communities throughout the nation and is an important part of the Jeffersontown community brand.
Today, the Gaslight Festival is a seven-day celebration with nearly 20 individual events and features, celebrating business, family, arts and crafts, entertainment, children and much more. It is estimated that more than 270,000 people come into our community during the festival week, and as we publicize the festival we reach more than 3,000,000 people in the effort.
In 2019 the Gaslight Festival celebrated 50 years, and like so many public events, the Gaslight Festival leaders had to rethink how to bring this annual tradition to the community last year. We wanted to keep as much of it alive as possible but we had to think differently.
With the help of our Chamber members and city leaders, we were able to host the 2020 Gaslight Festival with some of its usual traditions, and we added new features that were widely accepted and will be included in this year’s event as well.
Last year we were able to host the Golf Scramble as an in-person event, but with masks and CDC rules and regulations enforced. The 5K run/walk was an independent event allowing participants to turn in their time throughout the week. The Balloon Glow was scheduled as a drive-through event, but unfortunately was canceled due to high winds just before start time.
We started some new traditions like the Gaslight Festival Blood Drive, breaking records for the number of units collected during a Jeffersontown blood drive. We promoted local restaurants, offering a “gaslight special” including a unique menu item or a discount on traditional fare. It was important to keep the Gaslight Festival alive even if we could not gather in the town square.
This year we are back, and I’m confident we will have one of the best Gaslight Festivals on record – first because I know people are ready to gather and celebrate our community, and second because we have some new features to offer, and we are committed to making this year’s event a festive, safe, family-friendly celebration.
The 2021 Gaslight Festival brings back all of the traditions like the parade, the 5K run/walk, the car show, rides and food, and much more. We are keeping some of the best lessons we learned last year. We’ll be promoting our Jeffersontown restaurants, and inviting folks to come into town and enjoy all things J-town. We will host our second blood drive, and expect to break last year’s record of more than 30 units. We will have entertainment all day on both stages including dance groups, a princess/superhero party, and a magic show, along with bands like the Checkmates, the Rumors and Judge Angus.
Earlier this year, we announced an inaugural title sponsor for the 2021 Gaslight Festival. This is the first time the festival has partnered with a local business and we are proud to work with Securitas Mortgage. Jeff Houk, its CEO, grew up in Jeffersontown and played baseball at the former Jeffersontown Community Center. At a news conference held in early June, he bragged about how the community shaped his life and inspired him to become a community leader. He is passionate about our city, and he and his son Noah have already been hard at work helping us to add new features and sharpen our Gaslight Festival brand.
The Jeffersontown economy is strong and the Gaslight Festival tradition certainly offers us a sense of normal. This year’s celebration is about family and friends, and it’s about honoring our community. We have so much to brag about and to celebrate.
If you haven’t attended in a while, this is the year to see what’s new in Jeffersontown – and if you never miss a Gaslight Festival, welcome back!
For more info, visit jtownchamber.com/gaslight-festival.