MT. STERLING, Ky. (FOX 56) — Kentucky is famous for its long-standing traditions, from the Kentucky Derby in Louisville to the World Chicken Festival in London.

But there is one event that’s been around longer than any of them.

It all started more than 225 years ago. Mt. Sterling was a trading hub for much of eastern Kentucky. People from across the region would come into town to have their court cases heard, and while they were in town, they’d trade their goods with one another.

What began as a statewide occurrence slowly became less prevalent, but the people of Mt. Sterling kept the tradition alive. Picking the third Monday of October to hold the event, Court Days has expanded to four days of fun.

Mt. Sterling Mayor Al Botts said you never know what you’re going to find at Court Days from live music to tons of food, vendors selling art to competitors taking part in a mullet contest.

While the event has changed quite a bit over the last 200 years, he says at the root of it all, the festival’s main goal of bringing people from all across Kentucky and the country together has stayed the same.

A Mt. Sterling native, Botts has many fond memories of Court Days.

“Some of my earliest memories are coming downtown, coming down early with my grandfather when Court Day first opened that first day and just experience in it as a kid, it seemed like it was just overwhelming,” Botts described. “All the sights, the smells. It was just something special. And then growing up here and being able to come and just hang out with your friends and just explore everything that Court Day had to offer.”

Botts says that in order for Court Days to continue for another 225 years, it is going to take everyone who has ever been involved in the event.

He says every year, he sees people who grew up in Mt. Sterling who have moved away but still come back to celebrate Court Days and share the experience with their families.

That commitment is what he believes will keep the event going for years to come, showing young people how special Court Day is.


“I hope that they start taking ownership in it,” Botts proclaimed. “I mentioned before a lot of them work booths down here, a lot of them park cars. They use this to raise money to help support their clubs, organizations and sports teams and so forth. But I hope that they’ll look at this festival and say, you know, this is something that I want to take ownership of and try to improve on. So, we’re counting on our youth to make sure this festival survives for a few more generations.”

If you plan on coming out to Court Day, Botts encourages people to follow this checklist on what to have:

You can read more here.