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Bourbon & Beyond Isn’t Just Another Booze-Soaked Festival

The Louisville-based fest comes home next weekend
There's a mixture of whiskey and sobriety at Bourbon & Beyond. (Photo by Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images)

Bourbon & Beyond descends upon the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville every year, and the boozy music festival is celebrated for its always excellent lineup. This year, fans will be treated to performances from headliners like Jack White, Alanis Morissette, Kings of Leon and Pearl Jam alongside rising stars like Madison Cunningham and S.G. Goodman — and podcast fans get a live taping of The Always Sunny Podcast with Rob McElhenney, Charlie Day, and Glenn Howerton. Of course, one of the main attractions outside of the music itself is in the title: Bourbon.

But while Kentucky is celebrated as the bourbon capital of the world (and distillers from all over will be there to offer tastings for aficionados and newcomers alike), the festival is also acutely aware that people who abstain from drinking — whether they’re in recovery or merely dislike the stuff — make up a big contingent of their audience. With a growing awareness around how musical festivals can foster a party culture that excludes anyone not willing or interested in participating, Bourbon & Beyond has teamed up with 1 Million Strong, an impact initiative that seeks to transform the way people think about addiction and recovery and The Phoenix, a National Sober Active Community, which fosters a community for those in recoveryto host a sober-supportive wellness tent experience for festival-goers to cool off, relax, and enjoy alcohol-free cocktails in a comfortable environment. 1 Million Strong is an initiative created through a partnership between Stand Together Foundation, which is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty in America by driving change from within communities, Stand Together Music, an organization that believes that the music industry is uniquely positioned to amplify and accelerate addiction recovery, and The Phoenix.

This experience is just one way that 1 Million Strong is partnering with festivals and venues across the country to help bring new opportunities to their back-of-house and front-of-house spaces, including mental health and wellness support and Phoenix-lead activations.

The festival may seem like an unlikely home for an organization with a focus of “build[ing] a sober active community that fuels resilience and harnesses the transformational power of connection so that together we rise, recover, and live,” yet the two work perfectly together.

Operating in over 163 counties across 42 states, The Phoenix has more than 131,000 new members since 2006 and uses fitness, active lifestyle practices, and mental health awareness to assist people of all ages, races, and creeds in recovery. In their own words, the organization’s ice-climbing owner created The Phoenix “to be a safe, sober active community of peers who support each other every day on the journey to recovery.”

In addition to music festivals, The Phoenix emphasizes the power of all sorts of activities (hiking, yoga, running, crossfit, boxing, etc.) as more than just a tool to help those in recovery distract themselves from the battle they face. That active lifestyle mentality lines up flawlessly with Bourbon & Beyond’s messaging and aesthetic — even if it seems like the festival’s antithesis based on name alone.

Bourbon & Beyond is rightly a destination for bourbon and music lovers across the country, but it doesn’t have to be an alcohol-soaked weekend for attendees or artists. Bourbon & Beyond certainly has the potential to be a whiskey epic, but organizations like The Phoenix help the festival show all that is “Beyond” as well.