I am an outsider. This year was my very first Barbecue on the River. Of course, all year leading up to it I have heard the lore. I knew what I was getting into — or so I thought.
By this past Sunday, I couldn’t look at pork or smell anything with barbecue smoke. I suspect it will be that way for quite awhile. But in my pork-induced coma, I have learned several things:
n Never be afraid to try something new.
Where I am from, turkey legs aren’t eaten like ice cream cones. However barbaric it is to watch, those things taste great. I also tried fried Kool Aid (basically a Kool-Aid flavored funnel cake), a fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pork on a stick, and barbecue from basically every booth. Did I like everything? No. But it is imperative to try things, especially at a culinary festival like Barbecue on the River.
n Even if they are the same five bands at every big Paducah event, they rock.
There are some names that just always pop up on the bar-and-restaurant circuit, then a couple that make the event rounds. Barbecue on the River featured a lot of those bands. While I had looked at the lineup initially and thought the music would be the backdrop to me pigging out, once I meandered towards the main stage that was obviously not the case.
Everyone that was on the lineup played an excellent show. From Lew Jetton & 61 South revving up the crowd to the $ellouts and their rockin’ covers, to Great Gatsby Jazz Funk Odyssey and their minimal lyrics but awesome jazz set, everything was just perfect. I can’t list the whole entertainment agenda, because a girl has only so much space, but the talent shown on the main stage over three days just goes to show you that Paducah has a lot to offer on the music front.
n Everyone has a chance to win this thing.
Every single team at Barbecue on the River could be grand champion. The fact that two backyard teams, who have barbecue as a hobby, won the grand champion and reserve champion awards goes to show that.
As a judge (I took on the chicken category), it was clear that the bar was set pretty high. The difference between one chicken and the next was sometimes decimal points. It is that close, folks. Festival director David Boggs told me over and over that it was all about which team was hot on judging day, which proved true on Saturday.
n It may not have much more room to grow, but the festival will continue to become more and more popular.
Earlier in the month, I had a chance to sit down with Barbecue on the River organizers and asked them how much bigger the festival can get. Their answer: Very little space is left to inhabit. The festival has been filled to the max with teams and vendors, and when it comes to downtown riverfront space, much more isn’t available.
But that doesn’t mean people won’t keep coming.
Barbecue is a way of life in Kentucky. People take pride in it, and people support the teams’ causes. I spent three days down at that festival, pushing through the record crowds and standing in line. I didn’t mind it one bit, and none of the other attendees seemed to either.
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652.