Robin Proctor remembers the first Capital Expo Festival back in 1973.
“I was 14 or so then and had a band called the Kentucky Rebels that played,” said the current director of publicity for the 39th edition of Expo that begins Thursday and continues through Saturday at the Capital Plaza complex.
“I’ve loved Expo but never gave a thought to the idea I’d be handling publicity. I’ve attended every one of them except when I lived in Texas.”
Proctor, who in “real life” works for the Finance Cabinet, is one of a bevy of volunteers who give of their talents and countless hours to make Frankfort’s premier festival happen on the first full weekend of June every year.
“This is just my second year to do this (publicity), and it just amazes me the level of volunteer commitment in this community.”
In Expo’s first decade or so, a majority of the funding was provided by the state of Kentucky. Top officials were paid on a full-time basis then, but that all ended with the advent of the John Y. Brown Jr. administration, leaving Expo lovers scrambling to keep the popular festival alive.
What we’ll experience this coming weekend is testimony to Frankfort folks’ determination to press on even when the state financial spigot suddenly closes as it did with Expo so many years ago.
Now that you have a little history and some “connection” to one of the many volunteers, most of whom have deep roots in our town, here’s what’s up for this year.
What began as an arts and crafts festival has grown to include entertainment, food and a carnival. The carnival, brought to town by Big Rock Amusements, opens Wednesday at the Farmers Market Pavilion on Wilkinson. Arts and crafts are set up around the fountains while food and other non-arts and crafts vendors can be found on the plaza’s upper deck level.
This year, according to Proctor, there will be three stages for entertainment. The new one will be on the Wilkinson side of the Plaza Office Tower and is being called the “What’s Your Talent?” stage inviting Expo goers to sing, dance, do magic tricks … whatever their “talent” may be.
The main stage is on the plaza side near the YMCA while Stage Two is at the other end of the plaza near the tower.
“We have a great lineup of bands performing almost constantly,” said Proctor. “There should be something for everyone.”
A board of volunteers that begins work on next year’s edition almost as soon as this year’s is over directs Expo.
“We really get going in December,” said Proctor. “Each year we try to bring in new things and make Expo bigger. It takes a lot of work so we’re pretty much continually at it.”
Proctor said lots of the food vendors and others make Expo a stop on their circuit of summer events.
This year there’ll be a car show featuring some 50-75 classic cars. Several local car show clubs and groups have joined efforts to coordinate the show.
Other features include the finals of the Expo Idol contest on Thursday beginning at 7 p.m. and a cornhole tournament beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.
“Frankfort’s a great community and it always amazes me at the great volunteers who come out to help and offer sponsorships to make Expo happen,” Proctor said.