Poke Sallet Festival

Published 9:08 am Wednesday, September 29, 2021

The Poke Sallet Festival is one of Harlan County’s largest and most beloved events held each year on the first full weekend of June.

Named after a plant native to the area in 1995, Drew Smith and his colleagues developed the idea of a festival for all ages — bringing the young and old together for a weekend of festivities.

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In 1996, the first Poke Sallet Festival was held at Cranks Creek Lake and then a number of other settings in the following years, including the Harlan County Courthouse and Pine Mountain Settlement School.

Once revered for state politics being its main attraction, the festival has grown substantially and now focuses primarily on entertainment and showcasing local culture. Today, the festival sets up every year in downtown Harlan at the Harlan Center — well known as an attractive site for tourism and events.

The festival offers a menu of food to taste, competitive contests, live music, an attractive carnival for all ages, challenging 5k, a car show, the Miss Harlan County Pageant, and a number of other activities to keep natives and tourists coming back to Harlan each year.

Harlan Tourism Executive Director Brandon Pennington, along with his trusted sidekick, Downtown Development and Event Coordinator Laura Adkisson, Judge-Executive Dan Mosley, and other leadership, came together to ensure the 2021 event was still one for the books, airing some content virtually and hosting other in-person events in accordance with local, state and CDC guidelines to make sure its attendees or viewers’ health was protected during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Pennington and his crew of passionate Harlan County lovers put together a diverse line-up of events in 2021, when the Ohio Valley Wrestling group made its first-ever debut in the center of the PSF Square in front of the Bicentennial Stage.

Other shows, like ones from the Torres Family Circus, were also available for local enjoyment.

The 2022 festival will be the 67th annual Poke Sallet Festival, and you couldn’t pick a better time to visit Harlan County and join the fun.