The 28th annual Barbecue on the River festival returns to Paducah’s riverfront this year after being held “off the river”COVID-19 was the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, which lasted for 2 consecutive years. It begins Thursday night and ends Saturday morning.
This festival will feature barbecue vendors who compete to make the best barbecues and raise money for local charities.
This year, Barbecue on the River will go from the farmer’s market parking lot on Second Street and Jefferson Street and continue behind the floodwall to down near the Holiday Inn Downtown Riverfront location.
Beautiful Paducah (an organization not for profit) has assumed the management of the annual festival’s barbecue and has been hard at work for the past several months in order to return the festival to preCOVID splendor.
Whitney Ravellette Wallace, co-founder and executive director of Beautiful Paducah, said the organization has had an amazing — and challenging — journey in its first year planning Barbecue on the River. While the festival typically takes about a year to plan, Wallace said Beautiful Paducah had just about five or six months to plan this year’s event.
“If you can imagine, we have experienced a full spectrum of emotions as a result,”Wallace spoke to The Sun.
“All in all, it has taken blood, sweat, tears and countless sleepless nights to make this happen, and our team couldn’t be more proud of how much we have been able to accomplish in such a short amount of time.”
Wallace expects around 40 food and drink vendors at this year’s three-day festival, along with over 50 other vendors representing retailers, charities and other local businesses and groups.
These numbers are smaller compared to the number of vendors in 2019, but Wallace said Beautiful Paducah is still pleased with this year’s turnout. Wallace stated that many vendors were forced to shut down or had to be closed permanently due to the pandemic. Some were not prepared for bigger events.
Wallace stated that Barbecue on the Rive would offer first-ever open container beverages options to those 21 years and older.
The state approved Paducah’s Entertainment Destination Center in downtown Paducah in 2021. Legal drinking-age patrons can purchase alcohol from vendors and businesses that have been approved, then they may take the drink in designated cups within the entertainment district.
Wallace said that Beautiful Paducah has made great progress in improving its production and music quality. An area with activities, games and activities for children will be available.
“Our goal was to enhance the overall experience and offer more activities to go with enjoying the delicious food,”Wallace stated.
On all three Barbecue On River days, live music from bands and other musicians will be available. On Thursday and Friday, live music will be performed for everyone from 5-10.30 p.m. to midnight; Saturday noon till midnight.
Wallace urges festival-goers to come. “with an open mind and empty stomach,” and hopes the community will help Beautiful Paducah celebrate the festival’s return to the riverfront and keep it going for many more years to come.