The 2021 Bar-B-Q Block Party is set for Saturday, and officials said they are expecting great turnout. With a stronger focus on local barbecuers and no out-of-state food vendors participating, organizers said the “scaled back” block party could become the new look for the annual International Bar-B-Q Festival for years to come.
While some things will be notably missing this year — such as the carnival and array of traveling food vendors — festival board chairman Allen Payne said the two aspects that made the Bar-B-Q Festival famous in the first place will be making a comeback after last year’s event was cancelled.
“We’re going back to the basics with locally made barbecue,” Payne said.
The Backyard Cookoff will feature 35 teams from the area, while several churches will cook a variety of chicken, pulled pork, burgoo, ribs and baked potatoes. Churches participating include Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Mary of the Woods and Precious Blood.
Payne said the cooking teams will be using smokers instead of the “giant pits” used in years past.
Local barbecue restaurants will serve food too, including Old Hickory Bar-B-Q, Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn and Ole South Bar-B-Q.
Kentucky Legend will offer free samples of smoked ham, sausage and bologna from a tent.
Payne said 2nd Street will be closed from Daviess Street to the Owensboro Convention Center. The closure will begin Friday afternoon so cooking teams can set up and get ready for Saturday.
After choosing to cancel last year’s festival because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Payne said the board received a lot of interest from vendors about this year’s event. Though the carnival and food vendors normally make up the bulk of the revenue — roughly 70%, Payne said — the board decided it was best to keep things scaled back.
“We didn’t want to be the first super spreader event of 2021,” he said.
Sponsors such as Kentucky Legend and Atmos Energy offset the revenue lost to turning the carnival and concession vendors away.
“Our sponsors really stepped up,” Payne said. “By them doing that, I was able to draw back the reins.”
To keep people safe, hand-washing stands will be placed throughout the area. While mask-wearing will be encouraged, it won’t be enforced. Payne said the Green River District Health Department had already approved everything for this year’s outdoor event.
Even though the Bar-B-Q Block Party will be scaled down, Payne said he expects a huge turnout. Local restaurants will be open to the public and a Mocktail/Cocktail Crawl being held throughout The District will be going on at the same time.
For the first time in Bar-B-Q Festival history, patrons will be allowed to carry their alcohol with them using the plastic, green cups provided by restaurants and bars within The District.
In line with Bar-B-Q Festival tradition, some rain is expected later in the afternoon, but if it’s not too heavy, Payne said he expects the festivities to continue well into the evening.
If all goes well and the public responds positively to the “block party” format, Payne said the board may consider revamping the International Bar-B-Q Festival long term.
“If this works for us, I’d like to see this going to a smaller-scale festival, more contained,” he said. “It’s good to support local.”