Every year about this time my regular business grinds to a halt as I do my part to help create another Kentucky State BBQ Festival. As a member of the Festival’s Board of Directors, I wear many hats, but none of us could do this alone. We have a fantastic Board of Directors and an equally fantastic General Committee who take ownership of various moving parts and put it all together.
The Festival website, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are among my responsibilities. Brad Simmons does our Facebook marketing. My wife Maureen and I took on the added responsibility of handling the online sales of our raffle tickets this year, and boy, was THAT a learning experience. New systems will be in place for next year when we will have more time to promote the raffles and increase the revenue and the work involved.
Every January, we begin building the Festival that will take place the weekend after Labor Day. The momentum builds throughout the year until it reaches a frenetic pace in the final weeks leading up to the Festival dates. This year those dates are September 11-13.
There are t-shirts to be designed, bands to be hired, beer and soda (pop) contracts to complete, sponsors to be contacted, an endless array of vendors who want to be part of the show, marketing, all new web pages, a seemingly never-ending parade of things that need to be coaxed into being from nothing.
When my dear friends Brad and Cindy Simmons originally conceptualized the Festival in 2011, we had this thought “why not have a BBQ block party?”, invite some celebrity Pitmasters, and have a few thousand local people come and eat BBQ. We had been doing a few KCBS competitions, but you can’t eat the barbecue there. So we were dying to taste some of what was being cooked at competition level.
We put the 2011 Festival together in 8 weeks, with the help of Shelly Hunt invited Moe Cason of Ponderosa BBQ (who we had met at the Jim Beam BBQ Classic in Springfield, KY a few weeks earlier), Carey Bringle (the Peg Leg Porker), Craig Kimmel of Firehouse BBQ and Melissa Cookston (a repeat Memphis in May champion) of
It kicked off on a beautiful November weekend. That year we expected a few thousand attendees and wound up with 25,000. Ran out of food on Saturday afternoon, causing a mad scramble to clean out Kroger, Sam’s Club and Gordon’s Food Service for more BBQ to cook for Sunday. It all worked out great and we’ve been doing every year on the weekend after Labor Day ever since.
The Kentucky State BBQ Festival is operated by the Kentucky State BBQ Festival Foundation, Inc. and is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Donations may be tax deductible. Form its beginnings in 2011, the Festival has benefitted the Heart of Kentucky United Way and last year raised $28,593.30 to fund United Way projects.
This is an all volunteer organization. We all put in hundreds of unpaid hours to make the Festival a success. I want to offer special thanks to the Festival Board of Directors, Brad and Cindy Simmons, Maureen Loar, Myrna Miller and Rick Waldon for all they do to see this project through every year.
If you’ll be in the area next weekend (Sept. 11-13, 2015), stop by the Festival for some great barbecue, beer and live music. You can learn more about the Festival at the Kentucky State BBQ Festival website.