BBQ and Barrels breaks records, fills downtown throughout weekend

May 12, 2024 | 12:10 am

Updated May 12, 2024 | 7:10 am

Visit Owensboro Destination Manager Dave Kirk said the key to a successful event is a good amount of visitors and strong local buy-in. With year two of BBQ and Barrels in the rearview, they believe they were able to meld the two goals into a successful event.

This year’s barbecue festival featured a ticketed bourbon experience, vendors, live barbecue teams, music, and carnival rides synonymous with a traditional barbecue festival. Each factor either broke records or was larger than in the past.

“People are starting to buy into this thing. They understand that this is legitimately becoming a premier bourbon festival in addition to a fantastic barbecue festival,” Kirk said.

The event is split into two parts: the barbecue and bourbon efforts. Director of Public Events Tim Ross said the big get was strengthening the churches cooking again.

As families walked through the 11-block festival, the smell of fresh barbecue stretched throughout the area from the five churches in attendance. Ross noted that bringing the parishes was difficult because they’re often seeing a drop in participation, but it was important for the weekend.

“It was important to the churches to kind of bring back some of the history of the event and to have the element and it worked really, really well this year,” Ross said.

In addition to food vendors, they added more free music for everyone to enjoy from the Courthouse to the Convention Center.

“The crowd is the biggest outdoor concert here in Owensboro that we’ve ever had. We’ve never had a crowd like tonight. It’s crazy. So you know people seem to enjoy it,” Ross said.

As for the ticketed Bourbon Experience at the Convention Center, Kirk said they were able to raise the number of ticket sales, participating distilleries and provide a full experience for locals and guests.

To Kirk, this was done entirely by design. Coming into last year, he said they were on the heels of the pandemic ending and also finding the new footing for one of Owensboro’s longest standing traditions.

“You can’t take something out of the world pandemic and just make it what it was. You have to culture it and grow it and I think we’re there and only the second year this year,” Kirk said.

New to the festival this year was a 50/50 raffle which hopes to make the yearly event more sustainable in the long run.

According to Ross, the event had wanted to implement something of that nature for years but due to state regulations they weren’t able to. Now with newly amended gaming laws, it was something they were able to dive into completely.

“We had a winner that’s going to walk away with a $16,000 prize, which is a pretty good prod for going out to the barbecue festival. So we fully anticipate that growing tremendously over the next coming years,” Ross said.

Both officials are confident the weekend was successful among residents and visitors and excited for what year three will bring.

“All in all, I think everybody’s pleased. We’ll take feedback as we do every year from this year and figure out how we can make it even better for next year,” Kirk said.

May 12, 2024 | 12:10 am

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