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Louisville’s GonzoFest to celebrate Hunter S. Thompson one last time

Grant Goodwine
Organizers of Louisville's GonzoFest say 2023 will be their last year.

GonzoFest is celebrating its final festival with two days of live music, readings and panel discussions about Hunter S. Thompson and his “Gonzo” style of writing, which rejected the concept of journalistic objectivity.

Thompson was known for his first-person drug-fueled writing, especially works like “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.”

Ron Whitehead, the founder of GonzoFest and a former U.S. National Beat Poet Laureate, says the event is intended to spark creativity.

“I want everyone to be uplifted and inspired, comforted and healed and awakened to the fact that we all have a nonstop river of creative fire flowing through us,” Whitehead said.

The festival kicks off on Friday with an opening address from Whitehead. Panels include one focused on “The Hell’s Angels Letter,” a book by Thompson’s editor Margaret Harrell about his year with the Hell’s Angels motorcycle club. There will also be a documentary screening of “Outlaw Poet: The Legend of Ron Whitehead.”

Whitehead said on Saturday, the entire day will be devoted to live music and poetry readings.

“All I want is for everybody to find and be their own dream to find their own original voice,” he said. “Whatever that means for them. Not to try to write in the Gonzo style of Hunter S. Thompson, not to emulate anybody else, but to be themselves to discover who they are as people.”

Gonzofest founders Ron Whitehead and Dennie Humphrey with banner on side of High Horse Bar.
Ella Rennekamp
Gonzofest founders Ron Whitehead and Dennie Humphrey with banner on side of High Horse Bar.

GonzoFest originally started in 2010 at the Monkey Wrench bar. Whitehead said the festival is ending after 10 non-consecutive years because he and his co-founder, Dennie Humphrey, decided that they had dedicated enough hard work to it.

“We've done our part. We've worked hard for ten years, producing these amazing festivals,” Whitehead said. “I'm proud of my friendship with Dennie, and the work that we've done.”

Tickets to the last GonzoFest are $25 for both days.

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