Music list grows as annual Moonlight Festival nears in Somerset

The third annual Moonlight Festival will kick off at 11 a.m. at Fountain Square in the heart of downtown Somerset.

“Moonlight Festival is our largest, and has quickly become our most anticipated, event of the year,” Tourism Director Leslie Ikerd said. “There’s just something about great music and delicious food on a crisp fall day that people can’t wait to experience. We always look forward to showcasing our beautiful downtown every year and hope people will spend their day with us.”

Downtown streets will be lined with a robust slate of food and spirit vendors while a full day of musical talent is planned on the Fountain Square stage, capped off with performances from soul singer-songwriter Devon Gilfillian and country music star Matt Stell.

“We are so excited to welcome Matt, Devon and a host of local, regional and national performers to Somerset this year,” Ikerd said. “With this lineup we’ve included something for every musical taste, and hope the crowd goes home having heard something new they love.”

Or something they’ve heard before — which could be the case with Stell, who catapulted to country music success in 2019 with his hit, “Prayed for You.”

The song spent two weeks at the number one spot. As the only debut single to top Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2019, and one of NSAI’s “10 Songs We Wish We’d Written,” the hit has gone on to have 270 million streams, Stell’s first RIAA Platinum certification and more than 20 million views of its official music video to date.

Stell is set to release a new EP, Better Than That, on Oct. 16, the day he takes the Moonlight Festival stage.

Festival-goers who attended July’s Master Musicians Festival (MMF) may also hear a familiar voice in Nashville singer-songwriter Gilfillian, who was a fan-favorite at the event. Gilfillian’s soulful voice has joined the likes of Keith Urban, Gladys Knight, The Fray, Grace Potter and Mavis Staples on the road. Gilfillian was an instant hit at MMF, Ikerd said, prompting her to start a new tradition for Moonlight— bringing MMF’s most talked-about performer back to Somerset as a way of promoting both festivals and emerging artists.

“MMF has built an incredible reputation for our community as a leader in the music industry,” Ikerd said. “There are so many artists who go on to have successful careers who were just getting started when they performed at MMF. It’s the place you hear your next favorite artist. With this partnership, Moonlight can continue elevating those artists while also partnering with a staple event in our community.”

Local vocalist and student Cassie York will start the day’s performances at 11 a.m., followed by local musician Spooky Fox, bluegrass gospel duo Heidi & Ryan, and acclaimed Americana group The Barefoot Movement.

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Moonlight Festival is sponsored by Somerset’s future distillery, Horse Soldier Bourbon, which will be on hand once again to serve the festival’s signature drink — SomerCider.

“SomerCider was a huge hit at last year’s Moonlight Festival,” Ikerd said. “We love being able to highlight two local favorites — Horse Soldier Bourbon and Haney’s Appledale Farm apple cider — with this fun twist on fall flavors.”

Spirits will also be available, complementing a food truck line-up that includes everything from Mexican to barbecue, Italian cuisine to gelato.

Moonlight’s live art component will also return this year, Ikerd said. Several local artists have agreed to participate in the theme, “How Do I See Somerset?” by painting how they see the community on wood cut into the shape of Pulaski County. These pieces will be auctioned during the next #seemyset Art Market, an ongoing effort to raise money for the city’s art fund. The fund supports local arts initiatives.

Pieces created at other city festivals throughout the year will also be available for auction during Moonlight. Those pieces will be on display at the Cooper Community Arts Center Oct. 1-13 and bidding will begin online at at on Saturday, Oct. 16.

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